Survey reveals high levels of psychological distress among Quebec students

MONTREAL — A wide-ranging survey completed by roughly 24,000 Quebec university students revealed a high percentage of respondents said they suffered from some kind of mental health problem.

Fifty-eight per cent of respondents received a score indicating they had a high level of psychological distress, according to the survey prepared by the Quebec Student Union, a federation of student unions at various universities.

One university student of out five indicated they had signs of depression that needed medical attention. Additionally, survey respondents were three times more likely than the general population to say they had suicidal thoughts and twice as likely to say they had tried to kill themselves.

The survey last year, involving roughly 24,000 students from across the province, was conducted by the Leger polling firm, on behalf of the QSU. Leger hosted the online questionnaire and sent email invitations to complete the survey to thousands of university students in Quebec.

QSU president Philippe LeBel said the survey's results are worrying. Among its recommendations, the QSU urged the provincial government to create a policy to improve the mental health of university students and to give schools money to offer psychological services.

The survey also revealed that certain groups of students were more at risk of mental illness than others. They included LGBTQ students, students with disabilities as well as first-generation immigrants.

The report's authors recognized the nature of the survey could have attracted more respondents who have mental health issues as opposed to those who don't, skewing the results, even with a weighted sample.

Despite that, the authors said by using a "large-scale communication campaign" as well as by offering prizes to respondents, it "may have greatly mitigated the presence of this type of bias."

The online survey was conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 25, 2018. Total respondents represented roughly 16 per cent of the Quebec university student population.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2019.

The Canadian Press