Creating a student wellness Centre on campus was once just a dream for Arlana Vadnais and the other members of the team behind its inception. Now, the dream has become a reality.
Vadnais, now the associate director of wellness and prevention after previously being the campus mental health facilitator, works to promote mental health and wellness to students, as well as to implement the mental health strategy already in place and to help create a new strategy at the university.
Vadnais said that the centre was created with funds from the $100,000 Bell Let’s Talk grant that the project received in April.
After finding out in April that they had been given the grant, it was a “mad dash” to find a space and get things ready for students.
Found at 162 Extended Education, the Student Wellness Centre (SWC) functions as part of the student counselling and wellness unit at the University of Manitoba. In collaboration with Healthy U — a student-led support service for health issues — students can access trained peer health educators through the SWC that they can talk to about mental, physical and sexual health and substance use, among other health and wellness-related topics.
The peer health educators are not trained in crisis counselling, but are able to provide the resources students may require to access higher urgency supports.
Vadnais explained that mental health care comes in a spectrum. She calls it a “step-care approach” that tends to the level of support a person requires for their mental health.
That spectrum can range from maintaining mental health wellness, to speaking with a peer or a counsellor, to seeking medication from a doctor or spending time in hospital. The Student Counselling Centre (SCC) is a part of that spectrum, Vadnais said. The SWC aims to provide lower intensity care for students that do not immediately need urgent mental health services.
“By bringing the wellness piece in, we’re expanding that stepped-care piece,” she said.
Students who may not need private, one-on-one counselling can come to the SWC and have the opportunity to privately and confidentially speak with a trained peer to address minor issues regarding health and wellness.
“A lot of what this space is for is to create community,” Vadnais said, adding that it is a place where “people could come and feel safe, not judged.”
The space has couches and armchairs, colouring sheets, Play-Doh, self-help books and resources for wellness and health, but most of all, it is a space away from “the chaos of everything.” Additionally, the SWC is home to a few HappyLights, a full-spectrum lamp that is designed to help people with seasonal affective disorders.
An even greater dream would be to create private offices for peer-to-peer meetings and sensory spaces, Vadnais said.
Centre hours vary each day and each term, and peer counselling is accessible based on student volunteer availability. Appointments with peer health educators can be booked on the Healthy U website and students are welcome to come by the SWC for a drop-in meeting.
More information is available at www.healthyuofm.com.