Student supports available to help ease fall stresses

Pressing deadlines and competing priorities, combined with coping strategies that are no longer working, make the period after Reading Week particularly stressful for students.

Brock wants to ensure the University community is aware campus is full of supports and services that can help during difficult times.

The Health of Brock students is Sarah Pennisi’s No. 1 priority. As the Director of Brock’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre, she is familiar with the wide array of student health needs, which this time of year often means putting extra focus on issues surrounding mental health.

“After Reading Week, we see the beginning of a steady increase in students seeking mental health services that does not peak until the end of November,” she said. That increase, however, is a sign of positive change.

Pennisi indicated that it is part of the changing nature of the way society, as a whole, views mental health and mental illness.

“We know that the increased demand for mental health supports and services is not unique to Brock,” she said. “There has been an increased demand across the board, but this is a good thing, in that the stigma of reaching out has declined. Now, reaching out for mental health services is no different than reaching out for any other type of support.”

In the past three years, Brock has seen increases from 18 to 29 per cent in students who are seeking mental health services at the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre. In response to this, Pennisi and her team have worked with community stakeholders to develop a mental health plan, and have ramped up the services they offer.

“We have expanded our hours for personal counselling, we have drop-in hours for students who have questions, Student Health Services has an urgent care clinic where students can walk in and see a physician, and our peer health educators are very visible on campus and are able to go directly to where students are,” she said.

Pennisi also offered words of encouragement to anyone who may be dealing with mental illness but has not yet reached out for assistance.

“Mental illness is something we should not be afraid to talk about,” she said. “It’s very common and we are here to help.”

That help may come from several on-campus staff members, including counsellors, peer educators, trained medical professionals and staff members who assist with accommodation — all of whom are trained to assist with different aspects of mental health.

Pennisi stressed that mental health — and available services — are not just for those who are struggling.

“Good mental health is the foundation for feeling connected to others,” she said, “and everyone needs to focus on strategies to maintain it.”

To learn more about the many mental health resources available at Brock, visit

For additional support with academic, wellness, safety and financial concerns, visit

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