This exam season, students will have more access to mental health help after hours.
Thanks to a three-year $236,000 grant from the London Community Foundation, students will have access to a confidential walk-in clinic at Western University beginning in late November. The grant will be used to bring in counsellors and cover their service fees.
The grant will fund a collaboration between Western — the University Students’ Council, Student Health Services and the Society of Graduate Students — and the Canadian Mental Health Association Middlesex, King’s University College and Fanshawe College.
“The fact that it came from the London Community Foundation shows strong support that students are members of this community,” said Mac McIntosh, USC student programs officer. The USC sought the partnership because of student demand and the success of their crisis counselling pilot project last year.
The service will be offered without cost to students at Student Health Services during exam time from Nov. 21 to Dec. 14 and will continue during next semester's exam season. Undergraduate and graduate Western students will be able to access the walk-in service between Tuesday and Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m. Similar services will also be offered at Fanshawe and King’s.
McIntosh said that two CMHA crisis counsellors will facilitate the extra support in addition to peer support volunteers that will help with reception and administration.
Sonya Malone, family physician and medical director at Western’s Student Health Services, will be accepting referrals from crisis workers for student follow-up appointments.
“The timing in and around exam is really critical because we do notice that students' stressors increase around that time and they need extra help and support,” Malone said. “That’s why we're implementing this program at that time in the school year.”
Malone also notes that there has been an increase in mental health concerns over the past few years: physicians at Western sometimes spend 50 to 70 per cent of their days working with students with mental health concerns. She said that mental health issues interfere with academic success, so it is important to help optimize mental health.
Courtney Ward-Zbeetnoff is a second-year arts and humanities student and the charity coordinator of Active Minds Western. As an arts and humanities soph, she said she's helped many first-year students access mental health supports during O-Week. However, due to demands, some students were unable to get appointments until late September.
"Having this crisis service will help support first-year students by providing brief, change-oriented counselling from mental health professionals. It will also be a valuable resource for sophs, residence advisors and dons to use during and after Orientation Week," Ward-Zbeetnoff said.