The U of S sees increase in student mental-health concerns around finals season

By in News

With finals fast approaching, university mental-health resources are expected to see an increase in student use. This trend is consistent around examination periods at the University of Saskatchewan, and it’s an issue that the Student Wellness Centre aims to address.

This exam season is expected to be no different — academic and holiday-related pressures make it a stressful time of the year for most students. Jocelyn Orb, student health services manager, says that the university is prepared for this seasonal trend as it’s not a dramatic change from past years’ numbers.

“We always see a higher volume of students seeking support, primarily mental-health support, around evaluation periods — during midterms and finals. It’s a predictable pattern,” Orb said. “We are used to it — there’s nothing different this year or last year. There’s a steadily increasing trend over the last number of years.”

In light of this trend, the university organizes their programming accordingly. The Stress Less events, where students get free mini massages, snacks and study tips in Upper Place Riel, are always scheduled to happen during or leading up to exam time. This year, Peer Health hosted the event on Dec. 4.

Student Affairs and Outreach Services put on their first Hope for the Holidays seminar on Nov. 29 to help students who are grieving during the holiday season. Orb says that the university also aims to address factors outside academics that can have a negative impact on students’ health at this time of year. Despite the increased demand, Orb says the Student Wellness Centre is ready to attend to anyone going through a crisis.

“We try to be mindful about how not only is it a heavy exam time but it’s a time of year that can be stressful for people regardless,” Orb said. “We expect it, and our wait times do get longer this time of year, but we are still able to help people manage if they are in crisis.”

The Student Wellness Centre has same-day appointments set aside every day for students with urgent mental-health concerns — all they have to do is go to the third or fourth floor of the Place Riel Student Centre. Additionally, students can turn to the drop-in peer-support group that runs year-round in Marquis 104.

Orb says that it is crucial to take advantage of these resources before health concerns get to a critical point to avoid going through a health crisis at a stressful time of the year.

“We can support people when they are in crisis, but we want to encourage people to access services early and not let it get to that point,” Orb said. “You can self-care, get enough sleep and rest, spend time with friends and family, and take advantage of our service providers — part of that is covered through Studentcare.”

The U of S is interested in helping students take care of their mental health — Orb says they are putting resources towards the prevention of health issues through initiatives like Peer Health.

“The university continues to invest in health-education and illness-prevention programming — they are investing a lot in the Peer Health mentors and their health campaigns,” Orb said. “[We know] that the more we invest in health promotion the less we’ll eventually have to invest in intervention and providing care.”

With these initiatives, Orb says that students can learn to better take care of themselves.

“We want to help increase students’ capacity and their resiliency as well, but that’s long-term work,” Orb said. “We want to get people to access resources when appropriate on their own — reading and accessing support from friends and family — and then, when that’s not enough, we are happy to see them.”

Ana Cristina Camacho / Staff Writer

Graphic: Jaymie Stachyrul / Graphics Editor