It can be difficult to prioritize mental health among the onslaught of responsibilities that come with being a student. However, the Student Wellness Centre offers counselling services to the university community and some students say that these services have provided them with an effective way of managing their stress.
Pamela Thomas*, a third-year psychology student, says it was one of her TAs who introduced her to the counselling services at the university after she experienced a breakdown in her first year.
“At first, I was really nervous or skeptical about it, and then afterwards I realized it was really helpful,” Thomas said. “It changed my opinion about the whole thing.”
Thomas’ skepticism is not uncommon. Discrimination and negative stereotypes have stigmatized mental health care. Stigmatization can lead to people neglecting their mental health problems due to a fear of being treated differently.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, nearly seven-million Canadians experience a mental health problem or illness each year.
Although Thomas initially questioned whether it was okay for her to use talk therapy, she eventually realized that it is something that would benefit anyone.
“If you need it, you need it,” Thomas said. “It is effective, [so] you have to continue and just have faith in the process.”
For Neda Lajani*, an international student in her second year of physics, using talk therapy helped when she could not concentrate on her studies due to stress. Although she would have liked being given more advice during her therapy sessions, Lajani still highly recommends talk therapy.
“I used to always go to counselling… I believe that I need to ask professionals about everything,” Lajani said. “It was just — if I [need to] go to the doctor, I go to the doctor.”
Lajani says that even if people don’t see results the first time, in time they will realize that there are some areas in their life they need to reconsider. Re-evaluating aspects of one’s life can highlight the difference between regular stress and long-term stress. While the first type can be healthy, the latter can cause increased medical and mental health problems if not addressed.
The university’s wellness services range from doctor and nurse appointments to chiropractic care and more. Faiza Qayoom, a mathematics student set to graduate in October, says finding out about these services late in her degree is a regret for her. Qayoom wishes she knew about them beforehand rather than having to look for wellness services while dealing with stress.
“I had an idea that there [were] services but I wasn’t sure how to approach them or, if I needed help, how to go about it,” Qayoom said. “And then they told me ‘Oh, you’re having these problems [and] you need to talk to someone.’”
For Qayoom, talk therapy was helpful because at the time she couldn’t talk about her problems with her peers for fear of being judged, especially with trying to maintain a “perfect image”. Although talking to friends helps, it is not a substitute for professional help.
After talking to a counsellor, Qayoom says she now has an open mindset and is more comfortable talking about mental health with others. She stresses that it is vital to address these topics instead of brushing them off.
“Even if you don’t think you have any problems but you’re really stressed out, you should talk to someone about it, someone from counselling,” Qayoom said. “It is going to help you.”
This article is part of the Health Hack series, which covers healthy tips for students to use during the exam season and throughout their university career.
*To protect their identity, the individual’s name has been changed.
Fiza Baloch | Staff Writer
Graphic: Anh Phan | Design Editor