Auditing the Illness: Critical Analysis of Emergent Higher Education Mental Health Policy in Major Ontario Universities
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Since tragic on-campus suicides like those of Elizabeth Shin, there has been a call from the community for sensible mental health policies to be developed at Canadian universities. Mental health policies in Ontario universities are still in development and what is currently being used in place of dedicated policy documentation is often cold and legalistic, or simply inappropriate for use with mental health issues. The research surrounding mental health policy in higher education is limited, as the issue of mental health in policy appears to have only recently become a point of discussion. In this study, I attempt to create that discussion, addressing legalistic and neo-liberal trends in policy. To this end, I compiled the developing frameworks and existing policies from 13 major universities across Ontario (i.e., the institutions with more than 10,000 students) and examined them for precisely these neo-liberal trends. I conclude by arguing that current procedures for handling mental health issues (including the use of student codes of conduct and no-harm contracts) are not humanistic but, instead, bureaucratic. I also note that some of the currently developing mental health policies show many of the same tendencies. I caution policy makers to consider a more humanistic approach to mental health policies if on-campus tragedies are to be avoided.