Shevaungh Thomas among new counsellors at Laurier to support racialized students

Photo by Darien Funk

Shevaungh Thomas is the newest counsellor at the Wellness Centre who wants racialized students at Laurier to know that they have resources and supports on campus.

“All students are faced with anxiety and nervousness; it just goes with being a student. I think what really sets racialized students apart is the added layer of different things,” she said.

There is an added pressure for racialized students to represent their racial group and break certain stereotypes, such as ones that portray racialized students as less intelligent. 

“There’s lots of self-monitoring or code-switching; this idea to speak the perfect way,” Thomas said. 

There is also self-doubt when microaggressions occur because students may feel as though they are being “too sensitive.”

These added layers are difficult to manage on top of the regular stress of being a student and Laurier strives to help with this issue.

“The Wellness Center has tremendous support, I was very happy to join the team and to be able to provide a space where racialized students can come,” Thomas said.

Numerous workshops are available to students on the Wellness Centre website, including a Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills group and “Feeling Grand” which helps with depression relapse prevention and managing anxiety. 

Thomas and another counsellor started the “BIPOC Re-entry Anxiety from a BIPOC Perspective,” sessions which help racialized students with race related stress and are held on the first Tuesday of every month this semester. 

Students may also request a racialized counsellor when they seek help from the Wellness Centre. 

The stigma and lack of conversation surrounding the topic of mental health can make it difficult for racialized students to seek mental health support on campus.

“I think that’s a significant barrier because it’s not talked about and it’s not normalized; our racialized students don’t think that they can reach out or perhaps they don’t even know that [the support] is there.”

Racialized counsellors are a wise approach for this matter because of their shared experiences and similar lenses. 

“Having experienced some of the same challenges that our students might be facing, because of my own intersectionality, being Black, being a woman, being an immigrant, having that special lens,” Thomas said. “I bring that speciality to the table where they’ll be able to see that I get it and I can understand.”

Laurier can help by continuously making resources available and accessible for the student body, and by continuing the conversation about mental health. 

Thomas continues to support students and hopes that more will seek support if they need it as conversations are started and awareness is raised. 

“There is hope. That’s the fundamental thing about mental health issues, offering hope that things can get better, despite the challenges, you can get better.”

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