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BrainWaves: The Neuroscience Graduate Program Newsletter

Mental Health Resources

Author: Netri Pajankar

Mental health is a subject that has gained a lot of attention worldwide, particularly during the pandemic, and yet the mental health struggles of graduate students are generally overlooked. Graduate students face various hurdles due to the ‘publish or perish’ culture that can pressure them into overworking.

Some of the more common mental health issues that graduate students face include depression and anxiety. Indeed, one study reporting that graduate students experienced three times the level of mental health problems that the average citizen does. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a study done at University of Toronto found that 72% of students reported a worsening of their mental health, and about one-third of these students considered a leave of absence from their research due their inability to focus on their studies.

It is important to realize that you are not alone, and there are various resources that you can access for free, and easily from the comfort of your home on your own time. This article will cover various virtual mental health resources you can access for free or feasibly from all over Canada and for international students alike.

At McMaster University

 For Canadian citizens and Permanent residents:

  1. McMaster University’s Student Wellness Centre offers one on one counselling to help you talk about stressful situations and emotional distress with an experienced counsellor. You can book an appointment with a counsellor by calling 905-525-9140 x 27700 and learn more about the process here.
  2. You can contact the Students Accessibility Services (SAS) office on 905-525-9140 x 28652 or email them at to receive support, guidance and accommodations with/for any disabilities you may have.  If you know of a distressed peer and are unsure of how to help them, the McMaster Student Wellness Centre offers a guide to help you navigate through this process. 
  3. The Graduate Student Association at McMaster University also offers counselling services 24/7 by qualified counselors through Empower Me for students with various problems such as depression, anxiety, difficulty adjusting to a new country, addictions, relationship issues, educational conflicts and so on. You can call 1-833-628-5589 for free, anywhere in Canada.


For out-of-province and international students:


McMaster University welcomes students from all around the world, with diverse backgrounds and equally diverse struggles. To support its international students, McMaster University’s Graduate Student Association (GSA) offers 24/7/365 accessible counselling services through Empower Me for various problems such as depression, anxiety, difficulty adjusting to a new country, addictions, relationship issues, educational conflicts and so on.

Several other mental health resources for international or out of province students can be found here, offered by the Student Wellness Centre. 

Crisis resources within Canada


If you are experiencing a crisis and are located in Canada, there are several phone lines and chat services that you can access for help:

  • Good2talk: If you are thinking about suicide or harming yourself
    •  If you are located in Ontario, call 1-866-925-5454 or text GOOD2TALKON at 686868 
  • Empower me: 1-833-628-5589 (for Canada and US residents)
  • SACHA (Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton Area): Call 905-525-4162

  •  Crisis Services Canada offers a national network of existing distress, crisis and suicide prevention line services 
    • Call 1-833-456-4566 at any time of the day 
    • Send a text to 45645, available 4pm to midnight ET
  • Distress Centres of Greater Toronto offers 24/7 support for those in crisis or experiencing emotional distress via hotline, online chat, and text. Call 416-408-4357 or click here for other related crisis services


Online Counselling Services


There are also several online counselling services available for Canadians. 

  1. The Youth Wellness Centre Mobile Team at St. Joseph’s Hospital has partnered with McMaster University to offer free mental health care by appointment, which include counselling, support, and navigation services for people aged from 17 to 25 years.
  2. eMentalHealth is a non-profit initiative launched by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) to provide access to a database of mental health programs across Canada, with lists of services such as counselling and therapy by location.
  3. MindBeacon is a therapist guided program covered by the government of Ontario to support Ontario residents through stress and mental well-being concerns during COVID-19. Your therapist will guide you through a 12-week program where they will personally select readings, exercises, and activities to help you develop skills virtually via text-based services
  4. Wellness Together Canada is a free mental health and substance use website that provides services such as with text support, information and videos on common mental health issues, mental wellness programs that you will be coached through, monitored communities of support and individual phone, video, and text counselling to Canadians all around the world. 
  5. AbilitiCBT is a free internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) that can be accessed easily on any device at any time. CBT is one of the most effective forms of treatment for various mental health concerns like depression and anxiety. CBT helps you understand and change the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that cause your mental health issues. 


Community and Peer-Support based programs


Canada also has several community/peer-support based virtual programs and services online to navigate different mental health issues. 

  1. BounceBack Ontario offers a free skill-building program to manage low mood, mild to moderate depression and anxiety, stress and worry delivered over phone & online videos.
  2. Togetherall is an online peer-to-peer community service for those with depression, anxiety, and other mental health.
  3. Anxiety Canada is an online resource for self help information, community programs and workshops.
  4. LGBT Youthline Ontario offers Ontario-wide peer-support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, queer and questioning young people through text and live chat with peer support volunteers.


There are also various Discord channels for peer support for different mental health concerns for people all arounds the world.

Here are a few:


As graduate students, we are constantly trying to find a balance between our often-erratic work schedules and our personal life, and it’s important to remember that you need to take time to manage your mental health. It might seem daunting at first to make the first step to seek help but remember that you are not alone and there are many ways that you can get help to start your journey to recovery.