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Louie Villanueva

Wellness Centre says more students seeking mental-health counselling than in previous years

By Fabian Mayer, October 20 2015 —

More students are seeing Wellness Centre counsellors for mental-health counselling than in previous years.

University of Calgary director of student wellness Debbie Bruckner said the increase is partially a result of the SU Wellness Centre expanding its services. The centre recently added more counsellors and extended its hours.

“I think the good news part of that is meeting capacity and meeting demand,” Bruckner said. “We are also now able to see more students earlier in the term before issues become complex to deal with.”

Bruckner could not provide exact numbers for how many students are seeing counsellors, but estimated the centre sees 100–150 students each day. She said the most common problems are anxiety and relationship issues.

The Wellness Centre is now open an additional 10 hours per week. According to Bruckner, the Wellness Centre also changed how it handles students’ initial visits to the centre.

“One of the things we’re doing differently at intake is trying to do a more accurate assessment of the presenting issues. So that if someone is in a crisis state they’re seen immediately,” Bruckner said.

Bruckner believes efforts to reduce stigma around mental-health problems also play a part in increased visits earlier in the semester.

A 2013 national college health assessment (NCHA) showed mental heath to be an area of concern for both the U of C and other Canadian campuses. The survey found 27.2 per cent of Canadian students felt so depressed they had difficult functioning at some point in the last 12 months. Another 7.4 per cent of students reported they had seriously considered suicide within the last year.

“We saw that anxiety, depression and isolation were issues. We’ve been educating every faculty on what to expect and how to respond to people who are stressed,” Bruckner said.

The next NCHA report comes out in February of 2016. Bruckner said she is interested to see whether anything has changed.

Students’ Union vice-president student life Kirsty McGowan said the SU partners with the Wellness Centre to reduce stigma around mental-health problems.

“Stigma surrounding mental-health issues can be one of the largest barriers to many students seeking help,” McGowan said. “It’s really positive that more students feel comfortable reaching out to the SU Wellness Centre for help.”

Bruckner said the centre has implemented group counselling sessions and that its mood group and happiness group sessions have been very successful.

She expects demand for the Wellness Centre’s services to continue to grow, and argues it is a positive development.

“If there’s more services available to students then we’re very happy those services are being utilized,” Bruckner said.

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