Access mental health resources at the University of Alberta

As the cold weather arrives, with homework piling up and finals just weeks away, it’s a time of year when many students begin to experience heightened mental health issues. The University of Alberta offers many services, supports, and resources that can help students meet their mental health needs, but knowing where to turn can feel overwhelming with so many options. To better understand what’s available and where to go, I interviewed Kevin Friese, Assistant Dean of Students, Health and Wellness, Office of the Dean of Students.

Kevin Friese, Assistant Dean, Health and Wellness

Do you have any general advice on mental health and wellbeing?

Often we conceive of mental health as something that is an individual responsibility, which is neither fair nor realistic. If your mental health is deteriorating, you are not to blame – societal and community factors play an important role.

Often the things in life can cause us to feel bad mentally – ending a relationship, financial problems, difficulties in school or food insecurity. Help to remedy this can go a long way.

Remember that preventive measures count a lot. Taking care of yourself and others can help keep someone on track, possibly avoiding the need for interventions and clinical care.

What supports and services am I entitled to as a current U of A student? How can I access it?

This link is my go-to for students in terms of taking care of themselves, whether it’s traditional resources related to mental health and well-being, academic success, or other areas. .

If someone just needs to hit the ground running, maybe they’ve had relationship difficulties, are frustrated, or are struggling with their studies, I’d recommend a few options. There is SU Service – Peer Support, where peers are trained and have the experience to be able to provide supportive listening. There is also the Unitea program, which allows someone to book coffee or tea with a peer volunteer to come together to sit and chat in a relaxed atmosphere. Professional help is available when someone needs it, but reaching out or educating each other can often make a big difference.

I would recommend Wellness Supports as a first point of contact when someone doesn’t know where to turn. The on-site social work team can offer one-on-one counseling and help connect someone to supports and services based on their individual needs. This is really helpful when life circumstances make us sick.

Counseling and Clinical Services is our full service clinic with psychologists, mental health consultants and psychiatrists. They offer everything from individual counseling services to group therapy to educational workshops. Some of them are specific to reducing anxiety and stress, while others provide tips for managing your time. The nice thing about these workshops is that they are one-time sessions so people can come, attend, and not worry about finishing a whole series.

The University Health Center is our full-service medical clinic accessible to students and their immediate families. Often, some students may feel more comfortable talking about their mental health and well-being with a family doctor. The CHU Medical Clinic provides access to a range of clinicians, including family physicians, mental health therapists and medical specialists.

The Sexual Assault Center offers specialized support to victims of sexual violence. The team specializes in supporting survivors, offering volunteer-led education workshops and providing specialized psychological care to students.

Finally, there is the Military and Veteran Friendly Campus initiative, which serves a small but valued population of our student body. If a military or veteran student is struggling, MVFC provides contextualized services and can help a student navigate the complexities of campus mental health and social support services.

If someone is struggling to take a course due to mental health issues, what are the options? Or if struggles in a class are contributing to a mental health issue, what can someone do?

The first place someone should go if they are having difficulty in a class is to talk to the professor or instructor. Instructors schedule office hours and set aside time to meet with students. Letting them know you’re having trouble can often help the instructor work through it, too. if one student is struggling, chances are other students are too.

Your professor can help you explore academic options and determine if an exam deferral should be granted to allow you to focus on your recovery and recovery. If you are still having difficulty after this process and need further assistance, you can contact the Dean of Students’ office. We work with professors, faculties and students to find solutions that work for all parties involved.

The Academic Success Center can help if a student with a documented disability or injury needs support or accommodations, and they also offer a range of academic services such as writing aids, communication skills and scheduling of exams. These are intended to help students develop their skills and toolkit to maintain their academic well-being.

As I mentioned earlier, if you don’t know where to turn, Wellness Supports is a great place to start, they are experts in connecting students to services.

This is specific to grad students, but the Grad School Confidential is a podcast that aims to reduce the stigma around the academic and personal challenges faced by members of this group.

A friend is struggling with a mental health issue. Is there a way to support them?

A good first step is to be a supportive friend – to listen to the present moment, to be there, and not to seek to step in and advise or judge their particular situation or circumstance. Normalize how someone feels because often they are not alone and many of us have been in a similar situation. It can make a big difference for people to feel heard and have their concerns understood. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing; listen with empathy.

Wellness Supports offers a range of workshops that can help students build their toolkit to support their peers and community. Again, this is a good reference point for students. The team can connect them with someone who will care about their well-being and can explore next steps.

By listening to each other without judgment and checking in regularly, we begin to foster a caring community, which goes a long way toward making everyone feel valued, validated, and supported.

What tactics can be used during mid-terms, finals and other stressful times to manage stress levels and emotions?

If we consider our well-being as a train on the tracks, it is much easier. If you start to derail, it’s much easier to get that train back on track with preventative measures instead of letting the train get to a point where more help is needed. I have a few tips that may help:

  • Sleep hygiene is paramount, making sure we get enough sleep, avoiding cramming and sleepless nights – you’ll be more focused and productive if you’re well rested.
  • Remember to take a break and clear your head. Allow yourself to decompress and cool off a bit by finding activities that fill you with joy. For some people, it takes time to read a book or make art; for others, it’s about exercising or going outside.
  • Build your academic toolkit and coping strategies with workshops through the Academic Success Center, Wellness Support and Counseling Services, and Clinical Services, which can strengthen your academics and improve your academic skills. personal and community adaptation.
  • Check in regularly with your friends to see how they are doing and offer to listen to them. Supporting each other is really essential to reduce stress. This can take many forms – it could be literally checking in, cooking a meal together, or doing a group activity.

Will managing physical health and well-being help mental health? Does the U of A offer resources for this?

We know that there are clear links between our physical health and our mental health. Campus Community Recreation (CCR) is a great resource that students can access as part of their college fees. It offers a range of recreational facilities such as swimming pools, ice rinks, track, weight room, intramural sports, climbing walls, fitness classes, group recreational activities and more . Additionally, Counseling and Clinical Services offer on-campus yoga classes during the week.

Around the north campus there is the outdoor gym, available all year round, and an outdoor ping pong table located just outside this Van Vliet center which students can use during school breaks. non-winter months.

If students want to move around a bit while they work on assignments or study, CCR also offers treadmill desks at a number of campuses.

Finally, I recommend checking out what’s going on in the larger community around Edmonton. We live in a city that has amazing festivals and resources. Being a winter town, these are available all year round.

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