Here we are, at the start of a semester. The back-to-school buzz is finally dissipating, as we adjust to the routine of classes and work.

A new semester can be exciting for many. As a student, you get to see all of your friends and colleagues again, and are relieved from the hecticness of the holidays. Yet, going back to school can be very stressful and anxiety-provoking for students as well.

Readings. Assignments. Tests. Exams. Repeat. Of course, this does not include the many other domains of a student’s life, such as family, friends, loved ones, extra-curricular obligations (work, volunteering), and the like. Overwhelming feelings are often inevitable with all a student needs to accomplish within a day.

Thus, in lieu of the hurly burly that befalls many post-secondary students, it is extremely important to be aware of the mental health services on one’s campus, in order to prevent life’s stressors from negatively affecting behaviour, thoughts, and feelings.

At the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), specifically, the health of students and staff is taken seriously and a number of services and resources are available. Below, are a few:

UTSC Health & Wellness Centre

The Health & Wellness Centre has many trained health professionals to provide medical, nursing, counselling, health promotion and education services to University of Toronto Scarborough students.

The centre provides a number of services, and some programs for those who seek help for their mental well-being include group therapy and personal counselling.

With group therapy, students are able to participate in sessions with 6-12 individuals in a safe space. Through interactive discussions, life issues are explored based on the group’s needs. Some topics addressed in group therapy are time-management, mindfulness, changes in interpersonal roles, emotion regulation, manifesting positive thought processes, etc.

Through personal counselling, students are able to book one-on-one appointments with a trained professional for a number of mental health needs specific to post-secondary students. These include anxiety- and stress-management, depression, issues with self-esteem, interpersonal problems, sexuality, identity confusions, etc.

Emergency Medical Response Group (EMERG)

The Emergency Medical Response Group is a non-profit student organization at UTSC that provides 24/7 first aid and emergency assistance to students, faculty, staff, and visitors throughout the campus.

It is not a replacement for mental health services provided by trained professionals, but if there is ever a mental health crisis in need of immediate attention EMERG is able to provide assistance and the appropriate care required.

Mental Health Network

The Mental Health Network is a community driven initiative by UTSC students, faculty, and staff, and maintains partnerships within and outside of the campus to address and educate others on mental health and addiction awareness, removing the stigma surrounding mental illness, and to foster a safe campus and workplace environment.

Other programs and services at UTSC are more indirect in their impact on mental wellness. That is, although these programs and services do not directly target and address mental health, the resources that they provide are positively impactful towards one’s mental well-being.

For example, Positive Space is a program that identifies safer and more inclusive spaces on campus, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersexed, queer, questioning and Two-Spirited (LGBTTIQQ2S) students, staff, faculty, alumni and allies. Feeling safe and accepted is a critical and necessary to one’s physical and mental wellbeing. No one should have to feel anxious or afraid within the space they are in as a result of their sexual identity.

Another example are the Wellness Peer Programs (WPP), which includes peer-oriented programs with trained students focused on promoting healthy behaviours and attitudes. The WPPs are made up of student volunteers called Peer Educators who have been trained in one of five programs. Their focus is to be a reliable resource to students on campus by contributing to health promotion activities for the purpose of fostering a healthy community.

More specifically, “Leave the Pack Behind” is a WPP that touches on tobacco use awareness, policy, prevention, and cessation of use; the “Nutritional Health” peer program focuses on the Canadian Food guide, dieting, metabolism, vegetarianism, lifestyle, and healthy eating; “Party in the Right Spirit” focuses on alcohol and drug awareness particularly impairment, liability, risk taking, and communication skills related to partying; the “Sexual Health” program addresses healthy relationships, birth control, barrier methods, STIs and HIV prevention; and finally, “Mental Wellness” peers address topics regarding emotional well-being and addresses topics on stress management, relaxation, self-care, sleep and destigmatizing mental illness.

The element of student peers disseminating this information is significant, because, given the small age gap between the peers and their fellow students, the ability to connect with and communicate wellness strategies and tips to fellow students is heightened. Also, given that the WPP peers are enrolled within the university themselves, they understand, and can attest to, the experiences that come with being a university student.

Given the high prevalence of anxiety and stress among post-secondary students, knowing and understanding the types of services and programs available to one on campus is essential and will help one with navigating through one’s academic, personal, and social life with more ease and a greater peace of mind.

For this new semester, remind yourself to put your mental wellness at the top of your priorities and resolutions in this new year.

By: Allyssa Fernandez
Edited by: Veerpal Bambrah
Image by: Adley Lobo

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