By Scott Strasser, September 27 2016 —
In response to increased counselling requests and a new university-wide mental health strategy, the Students’ Union Wellness Centre launched a new mental health services model this semester.
The Wellness Centre will expand its programming and services under the new model, which came into effect Sept. 12. According to the centre’s senior director of student wellness access and support Debbie Bruckner, the expanded resources will help with the Wellness Centre’s growing demand.
“We took a look at our model and we wanted to make sure that how we responded to student requests fit the specifics around their requests,” Bruckner said.
The centre added more social workers and psychologists to help with student support programming.
“One of the social workers will meet with a student [who is] seeking counselling support, find out what their needs are and direct them to the solution or the anticipated program that best meets their needs,” Bruckner said. “That could be a one-on-one with a social worker, they might prefer online resources, they might prefer workshops or we’ve got expanded problem solving sessions.”
The Wellness Centre also implemented an after-hours phone line that connects callers with the Calgary Distress Centre or Woods Homes — an outreach program for underprivileged youth.
“We want to make sure we’ve got a model that’s nimble enough to respond,” Bruckner said. “[The model] will be more individually suited to a student’s needs.”
The SU Wellness Centre has experienced a growing demand for mental health services in recent years — particularly for counselling sessions during midterm and final exam periods. The centre extended session availability by 10 hours per week last year.
According to the Wellness Centre website, students mainly seek counselling for anxiety, isolation and relationship issues.
In response to a growing awareness of mental health problems among Canadian university students, the U of C launched a new campus-wide mental health strategy in December 2015. The strategy is based on results from the 2013 National College Health Assessment survey.
The survey found that one fifth of Canadian university students experience mental health problems every year. According to the survey, 7.4 per cent reported seriously considering suicide within the last year, while one per cent actually attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
Funding for the Wellness Centre’s new mental health services model came from the Alberta Ministry of Advanced Education, who recently announced investing $3.6 million in mental health and addiction services to post-secondary institutions across the province.
The SU Wellness Centre is open 9:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. from Monday to Thursday and 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays.