Algonquin supports mental health
BY JESSE M. KELLY
Algonquin College wrapped up its mental health blitz this March throughout the school. While February’s booths focused heavily on exercise and healthy lifestyles, March’s focus was on mental health issues and directing students to relevant mental health services.
Erika Dole, health promotions educator, says that counseling services, in combination with student services are uniquely positioned to direct students to the proper resources.
“Between the two departments they can recommend that a student might go down to see a nurse or a doctor, or might go upstairs to see a counselor.”
Student issues can vary from person to person, program to program, as well as by age, income, and career goals. Algonquin’s health services in C-Building, room 141 provides counseling for many mental health issues.
Dole said that depression and stress are the most serious factors affecting student life here and across the country. She said that schoolwork, social and relationship pressure can be major factors in contributing to depression and stress on campus. Luckily there are a multitude of services available to help those struggling with depressive symptoms or other issues.
Algonquin will be adding a full time mental health nurse to their mental health staff come October, however, students already have access to a psychiatrist who comes into health services each week. Students only require a valid health card in order to make an appointment.
Dole said she believes not many students know about the services, “I’m sure if students knew that they could take advantage of that, for free, then they would make appointments much more often”
Seasonal affective disorder is a condition, which can range from mild to severe depressive symptoms. The aptly abbreviated S.A.D. is largely a result of improper nutrition, and lack of sunlight, which has serious potential to affect students in winter months. Student life is punctuated with poor diet, lack of sleep, part time or full time work, and occasionally drug or alcohol use and abuse. All of these factors combined with more cloud cover and shorter periods of exposure to the sun can lead to a general malaise, or worse, in the winter months.
Though symptoms can fade in the spring and summer months, student life is still fraught with typical stresses, problems and expectations. However people with mental health issues can often feel intimidated about getting help face to face.
“[The] crisis line is another great tool for people who maybe don’t want to go see someone, but need to talk to someone,” said Dole.
Dole said her role is a difficult one, however she does her best to emphasize the services that are available within the college while still calling attention to the issues that perennially affect students.
“The biggest message that we try and send people is where they can get help,” Dole said. “…I think a lot of people who are dealing with mental illness, they feel overwhelmed about who can I talk to?”