A new student-run initiative is set to offer additional support for mental wellness on campus.
Starting Monday, Sept. 17, fourth-year Nursing students will spend Monday and Tuesday evenings facilitating Open Door, a project that provides free and confidential preventive mental health support and referrals to Brock students. An official opening for the program is planned for Sept. 24.
Held at the Kenmore Centre, the initiative aims to complement other existing services and fill the gap for in-person evening hours support, while also contributing to better overall outcomes for students who are dealing with mental health challenges.
One of the student facilitators, Jessica Thomson, said providing support from a student perspective adds a helpful new dimension to the existing avenues of mental health care offered by the University.
“It’s an interesting and open experience when students are able to speak about mental health with their peers,” she said. “We can try to relate and understand what our peers are dealing with.”
Along with Thomson, students Shaelyn Fitzpatrick, Olivia Janus and Brooke Doherty will facilitate Open Door as part of the clinical practicum portion of the Nursing Department’s fourth-year Community Health Nursing course.
However, unlike other placements in the course, the four co-facilitators were also tasked with introducing the initiative, which will see them working directly with students who are dealing with daily stresses and transitional concerns as well as providing appropriate referrals to those who need or want more intensive assistance with mental health.
“It’s unique because we are starting it from the ground up,” said Thomson. “We are taking on the marketing aspects and we plan to raise awareness through social media platforms. We want students to know that Open Door is a safe area where they can meet with us and feel respected.”
To ensure the practices of the team are in accordance with the highest standards, a clinical instructor will supervise the four Nursing students while they work with those in attendance. To further prepare, the students have completed additional distress training to complement their knowledge in mental health acquired in the third year of their program.
For Thomson, the initiative hits close to home.
“I have a lot of people in my life who have experienced mental health challenges,” she said. “Being there for others and providing resources that can help means a lot to me on a personal level, and it’s humbling to know that I can make a difference in my own community.”
Joyce Engel, Chair of Brock’s Department of Nursing, emphasized Open Door’s dual ability to help students and the course’s facilitators.
“It provides a very meaningful opportunity to help others while also offering leadership and organization experience, and developing the skills of students to support those with mental health concerns going forward,” she said.
Bringing the initiative from concept to reality was made possible through the entire Brock community’s efforts, Engel said, with help from the Nursing Department, Student Wellness and Accessibility Services, Student Life and Community Experience, Campus Security, the Office of the University Secretariat and other units across campus.
“It’s very exciting to work with everyone to roll out something that will immediately contribute to the health and wellness of our students on campus,” she said.
As the inaugural Open Door session quickly approaches, Thomson hopes all students will feel welcome to come out and talk about their mental wellness.
“We want to provide a safe environment where people can speak about what’s on their mind,” she said. “We have an array of different types of resources and references available and a variety of support services to offer.”
The Open Door initiative will run drop-in sessions from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. every Monday and Tuesday night until the end of November, with the exception of Reading Week, Oct. 8 to 12.
Those wishing to learn more about Open Door can contact firstname.lastname@example.org