New mental health fee for post-graduates

Last Wednesday, the Post-Graduate Student Society of McGill University (PGSS) Council approved a referendum question that will that will ask postgrads to accept a McGill Mental Health Service fee increase to postgrads.

The referendum question will ask postgraduate students whether they wish to accept fee increases of $7.50 per semester for full-time students and $4.25 per semester for part-time students, to take effect in January 2011. The increases will give postgraduate students equal access to mental health services and allow additional doctors to be hired to address students’ mental health needs.

PGSS Health Commissioner Jonathan Mooney proposed the question because graduate students currently have access to fewer doctors at mental health services than undergraduates.

The difference arose in 2008 when McGill undergraduates voted in favour of increasing the Student Service fee, which funds mental health services, but graduate students rejected the proposed increase.

Mooney proposed the question in response to complaints raised by PGSS representatives to the Mental Health Services Advisory Board (MHSAB). The complaints specifically addressed the fact that there are two doctors at Mental Health Services for the exclusive use of undergraduates. Mooney claims the result has been “longer wait times and less access to clinicians for graduate students,” so that “some students have to resort to seeing private doctors off-campus for mental health issues, which is often very costly.”

“I decided to ask the question because it is my responsibility as Health Commissioner to address problems that affect the health of my constituents,” stated Mooney. “I’m not convinced graduate students were aware of the consequences of rejecting the fee increase in 2008.”

The new question should clarify the issue to the postgraduate community, who currently make greater use of mental health services than undergraduates.

The fee increase would have no effect on Student Health Services, just Mental Health Services, and Mooney wants to make it clear that if the referendum question were to pass, it would not adversely affect undergraduates.

“The goal and expected effect is to increase the quality of care at Mental Health Services for all students and to ensure that there is no service differential between graduate students and undergraduates,” he said.

The date for the referendum has not yet been set but Mooney expects it be sometime in early November.