SWAC supports remain steadfast through Spring, Summer Terms

With Winter Term now over and Spring classes set to get underway next week, the health and well-being of Brock students remain the University’s top priority.

Supports are available year-round, said Sarah Pennisi, Director of Brock’s Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre (SWAC), who urged students to reach out for help.

“Call us. Reach out to us. There are no wrong questions,” she said. “Whatever it is you’re going through, we’ll walk with you. Whether you’re concerned about a relationship, worried about a roommate, or if you have a question about your identity or sexuality. We’re here, and we’ll figure it out together.”

SWAC offers a wealth of programming for both undergraduate and graduate students, including Personal Counselling, Student Health Services (SHS), Student Accessibility Services (SAS) and Peer Health Education and Promotion.

The supports have seen a significant uptick in usage over the past seven years, but the pandemic has sent demand into overdrive:

  • Student Health Services has tracked an 81 per cent increase in mental health visits by students.
  • Personal Counselling sessions are up 112 per cent.
  • Student Accessibility Services accommodations have risen 87 per cent.

SWAC has been working hard to meet the growing need for support and make a difference in the lives of students through its pillars of service.

Personal Counselling addresses students’ concerns about their well-being with 24-7 support via telephone or text chat with professional licensed counsellors.

Student Health Services provides virtual health care and makes in-person visits when medically necessary.

Student Accessibility Services is supporting students with accessibility needs with one-on-one case manager support, providing accommodations for a variety of conditions, including learning disabilities, mental health disorders, or physical, vision or hearing disabilities.

Peer health education and promotion provides peer support and programming for both undergraduate and graduate students.

“We are always looking to knock down barriers preventing students from using our services,” said Pennisi. “We want our students to access what we have to offer easily.”

SWAC worked to overcome two major hurdles imposed by the pandemic: the need for appointments to be booked outside of business hours and for a high standard of support to be available through text.

“Access 24-7 is vitally important for students,” said Pennisi. “We also recognize that because students were learning remotely from home that sometimes they weren’t able to speak freely, so the importance of text communication was paramount.”

SWAC implemented a game-changing service with the My Student Support Program App (SSP), which offers real-time, 24-7 confidential telephone and text chat counselling support for students in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Mandarin and Cantonese.

The app also offers resources, including articles, videos, podcasts, infographics, evidence-based screening self-assessments and free access to the virtual fitness app LIFT.

Although other organizations provide text mental health supports, Brock’s services consist of a full suite of mental health assistance, including appointments and interventions by highly skilled mental health practitioners.

“Having a live person pick up the phone or answer a text is integral, especially when students are in distress,” Pennisi said. “It takes a lot of courage to take that first step, and this service has been the difference in providing round-the-clock support. The SSP app has been effective in reaching students who wouldn’t otherwise seek assistance.”

Counsellors from Morneau Sheppell were also integrated on campus alongside Student Wellness staff when the initiative was launched in December as a one-year pilot project.

Pennisi said SWAC is grateful for the funding it has received from the Ontario governmentthe Niagara Community Foundation and Takeda Canada Inc., and for ongoing support from the Brock University Students’ Union.

To reach SWAC’s services:

Personal Counselling

Personal Counselling crisis support is available 24-7 by calling 1-833-BROCK-33, or, if outside of North America, by calling 001-416-382-3257. Addiction support is also available Tuesday to Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Student Health Services

Students can book telehealth or virtual appointments with SHS by calling 905-688-5550 x3243. Office hours are Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Students can also connect with an SHS nurse if they’re feeling unwell or have questions regarding COVID-19 by calling 289-968-5273 or emailing covid19nurse@brocku.ca

Student Accessibility Services

Students who are currently registered for SAS services can book case manager, learning strategist, assistive technology and available drop-in appointments through the online booking portal.

For new students who have questions or require accommodation, please visit the SAS website or call 905-688-5550 x3240 Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. for more information.