Peer health educators among wellness supports available for students

Loneliness, anxiety and substance use are just a few of the issues that Peer Health Educators Shadaé Brown and Valeria Foti respond to in Brock’s Student Health and Wellness HUB, a space where students can drop in for support.

In what can be a challenging time of year, the HUB is working to raise awareness of its services in hopes of encouraging more students to reach out when help is needed.

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, the HUB is hosting a Bell Let’s Talk Wellness Fair from 1 to 3 p.m. in Market Hall that will include resources, therapy dogs and activities to support mental health.

“University shouldn’t be a scary place,” says Foti, a fourth-year Psychology student who completed most of her degree online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “For a long time, I felt very isolated and had limited knowledge of how to find resources.”

When Foti discovered the HUB, her campus experience changed. She signed up for a suicide prevention workshop to learn how to help others and soon after became a volunteer.

“The HUB provided me with an opportunity to learn to use my social skills and connect with students who are experiencing similar situations,” she says.

Having things in common, such as shared courses, exam anxiety and even struggles with friendships and relationships, enable the peer health educators to connect, mentor and even share cultural knowledge with other students.

“The end goal is to see a student leave feeling a bit more relaxed,” says Foti. “We’ve seen some stay for one to two hours because they have so much to talk about and that’s OK.”

Sometimes, however, an issue is complex and would be better addressed through personal counselling. That’s when Brown, a Mental Health Team Lead, recommends  extra services students may benefit from in addition to those provided by the HUB.

“Students who come to us are looking for someone to talk to,” says Brown, who is also in Psychology. “They are asking for help, and it is important to me to make sure the needs of students are prioritized and responded to promptly.”

She emphasizes that services are both free and confidential.

“A student will never be charged, and no billing will be sent through a parent’s insurance plan,” Brown says.

In her leadership role, Brown also helps to create a safe, stigma-free space based on the belief that kindness has a boomerang effect.

“The HUB is a diverse space,” she says. “When a student walks in, we want them to feel welcome, validated and that someone is going to take the time to sit down and help them figure things out.”

Through the HUB’s workshops and trainings, combined with what they have learned in their courses, Foti and Brown have learned valuable skills that have built their confidence and enabled them to step in and provide support where needed.

The HUB’s drop-in hours run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday in TH 134.

Students more comfortable accessing services virtually can download the Telus Health Student Support app for confidential, private services in several languages.

The next SafeTALK Suicide Prevention Course takes place Friday, Jan. 26 from 1 to 4 p.m. Participants will learn about recognizing signs, engaging people at risk of self harm and connecting them to an intervention resource for further support. Register for the course through ExperienceBU.

A full listing of workshops and events hosted by Brock’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre (SWAC) is also available on ExperienceBU.

Visit the SWAC website for crisis resources anytime.

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