BUSU to fund new mental health positions

The Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU) has stepped up to address a critical student need.

After evaluating the current mental health resources at Brock, and consulting directly with Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre staff, BUSU had decided to fund a pilot project employing two new mental health positions on campus for two years. The project is made possible through a memorandum of understanding between BUSU and the University.

The addition of a new mental health nurse and counsellor will complement the existing services the University already offers in the Centre, and will allow more students to access mental health resources while also lowering wait times.

For Nadia Bathish, BUSU’s outgoing Vice-President, External Affairs, the need for more mental health services was an issue that could not be ignored.

BUSU MOU signing

BUSU’s outgoing President Faisal Hejazi, left, and outgoing Vice-President External Affairs Nadia Bathish, right, joined Brock University President and Vice-Chancellor Gervan Fearon to sign a memorandum of understanding that will see BUSU fund a pilot project employing two new mental health position on campus for two years.

“It’s no secret that mental health is one of the largest issues on any university campus,” she said. “It stood out, and we felt a need to focus our efforts on addressing this very important area of well-being.”

To do this, Bathish and outgoing BUSU President Faisal Hejazi were prepared to back up their convictions with up to $320,000 over the course of a 24-month period.

“We have a health reserve fund, and we have reached a point where we’re able to give back to the University,” said Hejazi. “We chose to contribute to student health in this way.”

The fund Hejazi mentioned has accumulated over many years and was earmarked for student-health initiatives.

After extensive meetings with Sarah Pennisi, Director of Brock’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre, as well as other key stakeholders, the decision was made to provide short-term funding in the area of mental health as a means to pilot the two new positions and demonstrate their importance to students.

“We are not experts in the health-care field,” said Bathish. “But we noticed a gap and reached out to the proper partners to get help in guiding and achieving the vision that we have for the students of this university.”

Pennisi said the collaboration will provide the best possible service for students while also highlighting the overall significance of the strategy.

“I think it’s essential to work together because we bring different vantage points and solutions to create good, responsive and accessible mental health supports,” she said. “Together, we recognize that health, both physical and mental, is the foundation of success.”

Hejazi agreed and said the aim of the partnership is to spur better mental health practices that he hopes will continue long after BUSU’s financial contribution.

“It’s a short-term investment for a long-term return,” he said. “We are trying to lead by example when it comes to supporting mental health. It’s a lot of money, but we want to demonstrate to the Brock community how necessary these roles are. By providing these supports through a pilot program, as well as using data and research that demonstrate their worth, we hope the roles will remain a top priority even after we are no longer able to fund them.”

The new mental health nurse will work alongside the University’s existing mental health nurse to provide additional support to students who have already seen a physician or are looking to see one about their mental health issues. The role also serves as a key connection between mental health services provided through Student Health Services and mental health services available through hospitals.

The new counsellor will join Brock’s Personal Counselling Services team to provide additional therapeutic counselling services that help to increase students’ coping strategies and skills.

Hejazi feels providing as many resources as possible to the University’s students is essential to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health as a whole.

“There has been a drastic change in how we talk about mental health in recent years, and it’s crucial that we keep on talking about it,” he said. “We have lots of resources available, but students don’t necessarily know where to go or how to seek help. We need to work every day to make the conversation about mental health even more open and this agreement will certainly help with that.”

The agreement was signed by Hejazi, Bathish and Brock University President and Vice-Chancellor Gervan Fearon on Tuesday, April 24. The new positions will begin offering services to students in September.

To learn more about the many mental health resources available at Brock, visit brockmentalhealth.ca or brocku.ca/swac

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