On November 18, U3 Linguistics and Political Science student Charlie Baranski took to Facebook to describe a negative experience he had with the McGill Student Wellness Hub. The post alleges that two hours after posting a tweet criticizing the Wellness Hub for rescheduling his appointment with a counsellor, Baranski received an unsolicited phone call from a Wellness Hub representative, who informed Baranski that he found his number through his medical record, and wished to discuss the student’s recent social media posts.
Baranski’s tweet in question reads, “The @mcgillu Wellness Hub just called and rescheduled the therapy appointment I had next Wednesday. I made that appointment September 3rd. Over 80 days wait for accessible mental healthcare #MadeByMcGill.”
[The] Wellness Hub appeared to be prioritizing maintaining its reputation over working to ensure students receive timely healthcare, and was stifling criticism to that effect.
In the post, Baranski expressed that the Wellness Hub appeared to be prioritizing maintaining its reputation over working to ensure students receive timely healthcare, and was stifling criticism to that effect. “For my friends and fellow students dealing with diagnosed mental illnesses, in need of urgent care, or in a crisis situation, they shouldn’t have to worry about providing contact information to make an appointment,” Baranski wrote. “They shouldn’t have to deal with cold calls from authority figures if they vent online about wait times, or speak candidly in public about their experiences.”
When asked by The Bull & Bear about being contacted by the Wellness Hub Executive, Baranski responded,“I didn’t feel comfortable being contacted like that, and I hope that is not the system they use… an unsolicited phone call from [the] administration is not necessarily something [someone in crisis] could handle. That is not the way to collect feedback about mental health services, and definitely not the way to treat students.
Baranski’s post has attracted comments from other students frustrated by excessive wait times and disappointing services. Comments address topics ranging from the lack of accessible long-term counselling, to the difficulty of booking emergency appointments in times of crisis.
“A lot of people have reached out to me since I made the post,” Baranksi noted, “and part of the reason why I feel comfortable speaking out about this is because I am lucky enough to now be doing fine.” He continued: “But a lot of students’ mental health is very different from mine, and [they] do need long term care that McGill doesn’t provide.”
Baranski is not the only student who has expressed concern with health service accessibility at McGill. Last week, a group of about 20 students protested a Wellness Hub open house outside the Brown Student Services building, demanding an improved complaint system for students and a more affordable healthcare plan in addition to shorter wait times.
Part of the reason why I feel comfortable speaking out about this is because I am lucky enough to now be doing fine… but a lot of students’ mental health is very different from mine, and [they] do need long term care that McGill doesn’t provide.
According to the Wellness Hub’s website, which manages both physical and mental healthcare on campus, drop-in appointments fill up early so it is “best to book an appointment if it’s not urgent.” As of the most recent update on November 12, the website predicted a seven to twelve day wait period for an appointment with a doctor and a five to seven day wait period to see a nurse. For students with mental health concerns, this wait time increases to one to four weeks to see a counsellor or local wellness advisor, or two to three weeks to see a psychiatrist. Many students report longer wait times, lasting up to two months, though these wait times vary based on faculty, personal availability, and specific needs.
In response to students’ critiques of the previous physical and mental health support framework, the Student Wellness Hub was recently completed in May 2019, a project that cost $14 million and merged the Student Health Service (SHS), Counselling Services, and Psychiatric Services. According to administration, the vision of the Wellness Hub was to provide “proactive, holistic, and preemptive” services in a “resilience-building approach” to healthcare, so that students can become healthy enough that they will eventually no longer need to seek out services.