Crisis desk: Closed, come back later
Students want improved hours for campus counseling
One of the biggest strengths of Mount Royal University is how hard it works to support its students — but do all of the students know how to best access these resources?
The Wellness Centre provides a variety of services to help students, from doctors and physical therapists to health education and counseling, but recently two concerned students — Alyssa Hartwell and Nicole MacInnis — have started looking into the crisis counseling at MRU.
Although the crisis centre is a great place to get support during the day, one of the main concerns Hartwell and McInnis identified was that the crisis centre is only open from 8:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Thursday and Friday and until 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
If there is a crisis on campus — especially something like sexual assault — it is unlikely it will happen during the day.
Hartwell was previously a victim of violence and has always been a social activist, while MacInnis was a victim of sexual assault on campus two years ago. She used the counseling services at the Wellness Centre and said that they were great support, but she wanted more.
Janet Miller, registered psychologist and chair of student counseling at MRU, said the student counseling centre is doing what they can with the funds that are provided, acknowledging that sometimes the wait for a regular appointment could be up to four weeks.
“We would love to have a bigger facility,” Miller said.
Hartwell and MacInnis are also employees at MRU and mentioned that when people reported something traumatic after regular hours, they didn’t know where to send them. There are other distress centres in Calgary where you can go and drop in, but it is not the same as having support at the university.
Miller said that during a late night emergency, students would have access to MRU security, which is available 24/7. “Security has my cell number and can call me after hours,” Miller added, explaining that there has been times when she has come in at night during a crisis.
Another concern Hartwell and MacInnis share is that there are very few help phones on the campus, especially outside. Miller acknowledged the lack of help phones but added that most people have cell phones they may choose to use.
All of the counselors at MRU are registered psychologists and, for regular counseling, you can make an appointment and they will try to get you in as soon as they can, usually within a week. They will also help refer you to any services that you may need beyond what they can help you with.
“We also focus on prevention so it doesn’t have to come to a crisis,” Miller said, adding that they have a number of different resources for early intervention and therapy for students, focusing on depression, anxiety, relationships and education.
Hartwell and MacInnis stated that they would like more information given to students in regards to the counseling services offered, such as on the Wellness Centre’s website. They both noted that the phrase ‘by appointment’ made them feel like it would be hard to receive immediate counseling if they were in crisis.
“If someone shows up in a crisis, we will do what we can to shuffle appointments around. We also have drop-in appointments,” Miller explained. “But sometimes we don’t know if it’s urgent.”
This is the biggest immediate change that Hartwell and MacInnis would like to see — more information available to students. Their biggest difficulty has just been finding information about what students can access and how. They would like the crisis intervention website to have more specific information, so it is easier and less scary for the students to use.
“Any feedback is good,” Miller said, admitting that sometimes the website might be difficult to navigate.
If you feel that you are in crisis, you need to state that at the front desk. You will be taken somewhere safe within the centre and they have someone with you as soon as possible. If you are comfortable stating that you would like help in a specific area, they will also try to match you with the best possible counselor for that situation.
For Hartwell and MacInnis, their ideal crisis centre would be a place on campus that is accessible to students at all hours. Some universities have a support network that is always open and provides both registered counselors and peer support.
Although they believe that MRU does provide students with a safe environment and open access to support, they also believe that there is room for improvement that will benefit all students and faculty at MRU.
If you need help, please visit the wellness services website, call security at 403-440-6897 or call the distress centre at 403-266-HELP (4357). Don’t be afraid to come forward, there is a place for you to go and people that can help you.