Officials with the University of Calgary’s SU Wellness Centre said they’ve seen an increase in the number of students reaching out for mental health support. The organization is trying different methods to keep up with the demand.
“The numbers coming forward are much higher every year,” said Debbie Bruckner, the director of student wellness at the University of Calgary.
The SU Wellness Centre offers several services to students that focus on both students’ physical and mental health.
“We have a clinic which includes physicians, nurses and chiropractors,” Bruckner said. “We also have a team of social workers, counsellors and psychologists.”
Last year, 8,741 students made counselling or case management appointments and 7,001 attended mental health outreach events or received training, according to the university.
“Accessibility is really key and we want to work more and more on that,” Bruckner said. “That means online material and going where the students are.”
Bruckner said when dealing with these kinds of numbers on a school campus, a traditional one-hour counselling session isn’t necessarily the best approach.
“If we did that with every student that comes forward, we would reach capacity really quickly,” she said. “That’s why we’ve developed different kinds of services.”
One of those is services is peer support where students are trained to help their fellow students.
“A lot of students were coming in and just needed someone to talk to,” said Amit Manocha, a medical student and former peer supporter. “It was an amazing place for that because it was just two students having a conversation.”
Manocha said students would come to talk to him about a wide range of topics including loneliness, anxiety and stress.
“Starting university, you’re exposed to a whole new level of workload, totally different from high school and the workload really tends to pile up,” he said.
Although the papers and assignments may be daunting, Manocha believes there’s been an increase in people coming forward for help because there’s also been more mental health awareness.
“I think we have gotten so much better over the last decade, in terms of being a lot more open about how we talk about mental health issues,” he said. “That has made a world of change when it comes to students seeking help.”
Bruckner also points out that it’s not just a change that’s being seen in our city.
“It’s the same across Canada, across North America. It’s this upsurge of young people coming forward.”