Waterloo mental health centres supplement Laurier Wellness Centre


Graphic by Amy Esplen
Graphic by Amy Esplen

University is a place full of transition. Students transition into a more vigorous school environment, a new home and a new group of friends. This can spur mixed emotions as some may feel excited while others, are overwhelmed. Thus, all post-secondary institutions are equipped with resources to handle a student’s mental health situation.

There are a number of options available at Wilfrid Laurier University, such as the Wellness Centre, Counselling Services and peer support like Peer Connect. The University of Waterloo also offers counselling services.

However for most students, the first point of contact at Laurier is the Wellness Centre. With over 17,000 students attending Laurier, one place is expected to offer a variety of physical health services and facilitate mental health care.

While the Wellness Centre is not a crisis centre, the response time for a booked appointment with a counsellor can be up to two weeks during peak times. The centre expects to see over 100 people per day during the school year for a number of reasons that can be unrelated to mental health.

Karen Ostrander, director at the Wellness Centre, said that in terms of space, there is a greater demand for services.

“In an ideal world, there’s room for more. We’re continually trying to look at our numbers, the issues and what we can do,” Ostrander explained.

“There isn’t an endless pot of money or space that we can put in so hopefully we can utilize our services more efficiently using the multi-disciplinary team.”

Since the Wellness Centre is a short-term goal-directed facility, any type of intensive care will be referred out to the community.

If a student is looking for more immediate help, Here24/7 is a community-based crisis centre that has 24-hour staff to take calls or see individuals who need mental health or addictions help.

Here24/7 expects to see those who have booked appointments within the week. As for calls, the centre expects to have around 120 calls per day for access or to inquire about service.

Here24/7 can facilitate the intake, referral, crisis and booking work as the service prides itself on being the “front door” to mental health and addictions services.

Carmen Abel, manager at Here 24/7, says that their premise is to eliminate unnecessary links and constant redirection to other services as this confuses and deters the individual from seeking further help.

“If you give people six different phone numbers to call, they’re not going to call them. But if we facilitate that connection, then they don’t have to worry,” said Abel.

With different services available on-campus and off-campus, it is up to the student to decide what works for their own needs.

Dave Patterson, fifth-year Laurier student and an on-campus advocate for mental health, has had experience in both — seeking services on-campus and off-campus.

Ultimately, he ended up staying with Laurier’s counselling services after meeting a counsellor he felt comfortable with.

Patterson advises those who are seeking mental health services to be patient.

Each individual will have different needs, and in order to have a rewarding experience in university, a real effort must be made to make sure these needs are met by the right practitioner or provider.

“Sometimes it might take one or two tries to find someone you are fully comfortable with opening up. Often times, if that’s the case, I feel like that gets blurred and categorized as a flaw in the system, but really it’s a matter of persistence and just continuing to try and trust in that,” said Patterson.

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