Mental health resources at Laurier amidst COVID-19
Since March, COVID-19 has introduced numerous challenges for people across the world.
One of the most prevailing issues faced by Canadians that has been brought on by COVID-19 is the strain the pandemic has put on mental health and wellness.
According to a study done by the Angus Reid Institute, 50 per cent of Canadians reported that their mental health worsened since the onset of COVID-19.
Feelings such as isolation, anxiety, depression, financial concerns and stress over weakened job security have been cited as some of the contributing factors associated with individuals who have experienced deteriorating mental health during the pandemic.
For many university and college students specifically, these problems have been furthered by remote classwork and separation from the typical post-secondary learning and social environment.
Sherrie Steinberg, clinical lead at Wilfrid Laurier’s Student Wellness Centre, has heard from the students she’s worked with that experiencing emotions surrounding solitude and test anxiety are fairly common during this time of uncertainty.
“Some of the things that have come up are a lot of stress around testing because of some of the things put in place to mitigate any cheating,” Steinberg said.
“I’ve certainly had a number of students say they’re really nervous—even more nervous about testing than they have been — because of some of the procedures they have to go through which are in place to prevent [academic misconduct].”
“I have students who are feeling isolated because they’re either doing school remotely from home or here in Waterloo but away from their family and those supports.”
Ontario public health recommendations state that people should be staying at home as often as possible, limiting contact with others and following social distance measures whenever possible.
People have shared contradicting personal opinions about safe COVID-19 socialization practices over social media, which would also add to the difficulties faced by students living with roommates.
“Sometimes it’s been roommate conflict … one of the things that have come up is different levels of adherence to social distancing and that kind of thing. If you’re living with someone who doesn’t share the same attitude about that, that can be a problem,” Steinberg said.
“Or, living at home and just finding that you don’t have privacy, you don’t feel like you can do the things you want to do or need to do, so there’s that.”
Although most students are currently not taking classes on-campus, the Laurier Wellness Centre is still operating and offering counselling sessions and various other resources online.
“Even though it might seem like we’re not open, we are, but we’re open virtually. Most of what we’re providing is remote supports,” Steinberg said.
“In terms of counselling support, we have regular, ongoing counselling appointments. The other kind of appointment we have is what we call a ‘same day.’ Any of those types of appointments you can just call into the Student Wellness Centre reception and they can guide you through that process about what makes sense for you.”
“Then we have a whole other section related to groups and workshops to support mental health,” she said.
Steinberg encourages students to seek out professional help if they need it and to explore the resource options that Laurier has available.
“From my perspective, what I’m always saying to people is ‘don’t be afraid to reach out for some support, that’s what we’re here for.’ Even though we’re not physically able to see you in person, we absolutely can connect with you,” Steinberg said.
“We can be pretty flexible about that. Initially, when we started working remotely we only did phone appointments, but now because we have a secure platform we can do phone or video and students can choose.”
There are alternative therapy options available in Kitchener-Waterloo as well.
The Delton Glebe Counselling Centre, located on Albert Street, is open and offering some in-person visits, along with phone and video therapy sessions. The Region of Waterloo website also has a list of resources and services related to mental wellness.
According to Steinberg, Laurier is continuously working to provide students with mental health and wellbeing supports, to suit as many people and their individual needs as possible.
“I would say all of the areas on campus providing students support have really ramped up all of their offerings so that there are lots and lots of things to choose from,” Steinberg said.
“We’re really trying to look at what are some of the unique needs [of students], particularly because of the pandemic, and how do we add to our offerings to specifically address those needs.”