Administration has confirmed that they will be renewing the mental health strategist position at UNB.
The mental health strategist position was created to find gaps within the mental health services at UNB and provide solutions to those gaps. It was created through a year’s worth of government funding, and was not expected to last beyond a year.
“Last year the Student Union made a big fuss about the mental health services at UNB. That trickled up and resulted more or less in the creation of the mental health strategist position,” said Lee Thomas, UNBSU vice-president internal.
“The university recognized that we needed a strategy to improve mental health services on our campus,” she said.
Rice Fuller, director of counselling services, said that it was thanks to extra money within the counselling services budget that the position is being renewed for another year.
“We had some salary savings, money that didn’t get paid out in salary this year and some non-salary budget that was left over. We were able to put those two things together and come up with enough money for the position.”
The mental health strategist’s duties is to assess students’ mental health needs on campus, to make improvements to current services being offered and to create new services. The position is currently held by Kathleen Pye.
Thomas said that the original grant to fund the position one year was not enough for UNB.
“It’s saying ‘Yeah, we acknowledge that there’s a problem but we’re only going to give you enough of a solution that all the people who are complaining about it are going to shut up and graduate and then we won’t need to deal with this anymore,” said Thomas.
“Especially with something like mental health, you need to have a longer plan than something that’s only going to last a year.”
A similar position created at STU also received funding for just one year.
“It’s really frustrating as someone who advocates for students to have empty gestures like one-year positions because one-year positions aren’t sustainable and students need sustainable change,” Thomas said.
While it was not been confirmed who will fill the position for the coming year, Fuller said that he hopes Pye will take it up once again.
Thomas works closely with Pye as advocating for students is a part of her role as vice-president internal.
“Without her it wouldn’t have been possible to do some of the things that we did this year, like the peer support program that we’re doing, with My Definition, with mental health awareness week, with eating disorder awareness,” said Thomas.
Thomas also said that students, whether they personally use the services or not, should feel that mental health within the UNB community is a priority.
“This year I’ve seen more progress in the university with regards to mental health than I have in any of my other time here,” she said. “As representatives of the entire undergraduate full-time student population, this is a priority for us.”