Mental health on campus
Why and how to get treatment
By Riley Nerbas, Staff Writer
The counselling services at Mount Royal see about 3,391 individual sessions annually, which is an increase from previous years. There have been around 500 visits to the mental health workshops that have begun to multiply on the Mount Royal campus.
Corporate campaigns such as Bell Let’s Talk and individuals speaking out have attempted to decrease the stigma associated with mental illness. Through different types of counselling such as group, workshop, individual and career counselling, some individuals have seen a decline in stigma.
Counselling services at Mount Royal University have seen an increase in the individuals coming to seek its services whether through appointments or drop-ins.
Mirjam Knapik, a counsellor at MRU, feels there are two types of students who seek counselling services. “There are extremes now. There are the students who walk proudly into student counselling and who open up freely about seeing a counsellor to others,” she says, “and there are the students who feel it is a weakness and build a barrier around themselves.”
Matthew Warren, a second year business student at MRU, experienced this with his brother when he became depressed while attending a postsecondary institution in Ontario. While Warren’s brother kept to himself at first, he eventually opened up to his parents.
“One thing that was very challenging, about my brother having depression, was that he kept it a secret for a very long time and because I was not aware of it, I didn’t know how to respond to my brother’s behaviour of seclusion,” Warren says.
Warren’s brother developed depression while having a career choice crisis during his post-secondary education. With the help of counselling and mild medication, Warren’s brother was able to work through his depression.
Though there are many reasons someone may not reach out for help such as stigma, cultural background, or concern for privacy, counsellor’s advocate that the best option is talking through the issues. With concerns to privacy Knapik says, “Everything is confidential with three exceptions: subpoena, harm to yourself or others and harm to a minor or dependent adult,” at which point they would have to notify the proper channels.
On campuses, academic stress can lead to numerous mental health issues. The counsellors at Mount Royal generally see a spike in appointments and drop-ins around and after midterms.
There have been multiple platforms developed by counsellors and students on campus through workshops and support groups to bring awareness about mental illness.
“This semester we [tried] something new with resolution week which [was] to help students with New Year’s resolutions and this [was] through SAMRU group talks,” Knapik says.
Resolution week was hosted by SAMRU Jan. 24 through Jan. 27. The purpose of the week was to spread awareness about stress, coping methods, and building resilience during stressful times while still maintaining new goals.
In response to the rise of stress during midterms, the counsellors make workshops available. The workshop times and locations can be found on the Wellness Services website.
The Wellness Services website advertises many other opportunities outside of counselling to help improve a student’s mental health. There are podcasts set up to teach students ways to develop resilience against stress. There are also blogs and apps that can help answer mental health questions.
Knapik runs a blog called “Ask a Counsellor.” This blog allows students to ask questions about mental health anonymously. An app called “What’s App Doc?” is another option for students to discover apps that help deal with stress. Worry Box is one app that helps participants document their anxiety and find ways to handle and control their stress levels.
Mental Health in the 21st century has certainly come a long way from where it was a hundred years ago. Through media campaigns and counsellors who provide support, many students have had increased access to platforms for help.
Apps to benefit your mental health:
Breathe2Relax includes guided breathing exercises that can help with anxiety management, anger control, mood stabilization, and stress reduction.
When users begin the use of this app, they are assessed to determine strengths and weaknesses in body, stress/anxiety, mood, sleep, and social life. Users are then given tailored daily exercises to fit their specific needs.
This app gives beginners tools to establish a meditative routine in order to reduce anxiety and stress. While this form of guided meditation is not for everyone, it is a good introduction to the practice.
This app detects and tracks patterns in mood while giving users coping mechanisms for conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and PTSD.
While Talkspace is not a substitute for in-person therapy, it can be useful by matching users with a therapist to chat with at any time. This app requires a subscription but has various payment options.
SAM: Self Help for Anxiety Management
This application helps individuals identify triggers and manage anxiety. Users are also able to anonymously share experiences with other users.