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Calgary Universities are relocating mental health programs to meet student COVID-19 needs

Post-secondary schools in Calgary are tailoring their mental health support to students coping with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both Mount Royal University and the University of Calgary are looking at different ways to address student mental health. May 3-9 is Mental Health Week in Canada.

Kevin Wiens, the manager of Student Wellness Support at the University of C, said they typically wouldn’t have continued their mental health programs during the spring and summer semesters. This year will be different.

“We have some plans for both the staff and the students,” he said.

“In a normal year, the same workshops wouldn’t be offered in the spring.”

Wiens says there was a main driver to continue programming.

“We wanted to consider the stress and what our campus community was telling us how they were doing.”

If you need help right away, you can access the services you need:

Alberta Health Services 24 hours / 7 days a week: 1-877-303-2642 (toll free)
Distress Center Calgary – 403-266-AID (4357)
2-1-1 in Alberta can help you find the service you need

From April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, according to Vienna, there was a considerable demand for counseling services with 7,300 health appointments. To keep up with student needs, U of C has introduced a new counseling model.

“We are now only eight months away. Since September, no student has had to wait more than five days for counseling appointments. It will stay that way in spring and summer, ”said Wiens.

Their alternative approach is based on previous feedback from the community that the waiting times were too long.

“We took this seriously and made the appropriate changes to our service delivery model. We would like to hear from the students concerned and see what experiences they have made, ”said Wiens.

Wiens wants students to know that the health system is still in place and encourages students to get in touch.

“The demand is there, especially this year. We’re just trying to be as responsive as possible to accommodate the challenging situation we find ourselves in this summer given COVID-19 and the added stressors that come with it. “

MRU records Mental Health Awareness Month


Mirjam Knapik is chair of the advisory services at the MRU. She said MRU has also changed how they deal with mental health.

“There was a time when people only thought that advice was responsible, but it’s been a shift in recent years and recognition of all contributions from other departments and areas,” Knapik said.

“For example, the student union hosts events and the Healthy Campus Office hosts events.”

All MRU services have been switched to online, e.g. B. Meetings through videos and workshops through Google Meet. Knapik also notes that more students have taken advantage of mental health programs due to the pandemic.

“People are fighting because they are used to working with others … others are fighting with fears about COVID-19, work and things like that,” she said.

The number of counseling appointments planned for this year is not available. According to Knapik, there were 3,450 individual visits and 3,879 hours of participation by students in workshops and training courses from 2019 to 2020.

Knapik said they are ready for students looking for quick help.

“There are vacancies this week for students looking for same-day services or feeling some kind of urgency that can sometimes be created through an awareness campaign.”

Student associations

The counseling services at the MRU try to keep in touch with the students. Reviews are available for those who have attended meetings. According to Knapik, communicating the availability of services was a key problem.

“Sometimes students assume that it is not available and that we are probably too busy. We keep trying to let people know that we have space and that we will be available throughout the semester. The student advisory service is open all year round. “

Knapik encourages students to use the university’s programs and take care of their mental health.

“Students sometimes think, ‘Oh, it’s not bad enough for me to come to the counseling.'”

However, Knapik said she wants students to know that counseling isn’t just about mental illness.

“It’s also about becoming more resilient, improving your skills to deal with stress or emotions. All of these things are part of this development for many students who begin the university journey and through all these four years. ”

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