Heading back, or starting, university is often an exciting time in a student’s life.
However, after the past 18 months of mostly remote learning, back to school might feel a bit more intimidating than usual for many students. Indeed, as UBC Okanagan’s campus filled up with students earlier this month, staff in UBCO’s Student Wellness Centre made sure they were ready to welcome students. As the red carpet is officially unfurled, the university strives to ensure all students have a safe place to turn for their mental and physical wellbeing.
Roger Wilson, director of UBCO’s Student Wellness Centre, describes some of the services available to students when classes resumed in September.
Why is self-care an important requisite for learning at university?
Our number one priority is student success. And to succeed, they must feel healthy and be in a positive state of mind.
That’s why we have a number of resources available to our students. Whether it’s loneliness, anxiety, an illness where they need to see a clinician or a fitness class, we can help students find the services available.
We encourage all students to develop a balanced plan for their studies—this is really the backbone of self-care. This means all students are encouraged to ensure adequate time for class attendance and time to complete homework, readings and projects, time for regular physical fitness and recreational pursuits, eating regular meals and getting enough sleep, and of course, social time. While living away from home or even living at home and attending university means new expectations and routines, making and meeting friends, long study periods and attending class, it can be very easy to “upset the balance.” This is where students run into difficulties—hence, we want to encourage all students to be proactive and manage their day-to-day life in a healthy, balanced manner.
What specific services does the student wellness team offer to students?
We offer a clinic with primary health services; this includes a physician, nurse practitioner, RN’s and health office assistants. The counselling team provides personal and group options and Campus Health provides students with opportunities to support other students in developing a healthy campus. The Disability Resource Centre works with students and faculty to ensure that all students have an equitable approach to learning.
One of the best ways to manage stress and anxiety (and make new friends) is to work out and burn off the excess tension that you may experience. We recommend this to all students who use the student wellness services.
How does UBCO help students ensure their physical, mental and emotional health is a priority?
Good student health is foundational to student wellbeing—it’s part of who we are as a university. We want students to be successful with their studies but also enjoy themselves and stay healthy while they pursue their goals.
While we provide these services, we also work hand in hand with our campus partners to ensure our students are informed of what’s available to them and how they can access services. Not everyone is comfortable walking into an office and asking for help, so we have several telephone and online supports for students to use.
UBC’s Student Assistance Program (SAP), offered by Aspiria, is a free, 24/7 wellness resource for students. Services include personal counselling, life coaching, group programs, fitness and nutrition, as well as some financial tips such as budgeting or saving. Users have the choice of contact through phone, video, face to face (where available), and instant messaging or chat counselling. SAP services are provided in more than 180 languages and are a safe, confidential space for our students.
We also recommend other supports such as the 24/7 telephone crisis line at Here2Talk and the KUU-US Crisis Line is available specifically for Indigenous students in BC at 1 800 588 8717.
Beyond SAP, we provide mental health support. Our counsellors provide a space for students to examine and explore behaviours, relationships, feelings or thoughts that cause concern or challenges in their life. Whether these problems are primarily impacting personal, social or academic life, a counsellor can help to strengthen a student’s ability to cope and provide a valuable source of support.
Any advice to someone feeling anxious about these first few weeks back on campus?
As we have all done during the pandemic, let’s continue to be flexible, and follow the public and university guidelines on managing COVID-19. This is an unusual time and we need to be accepting of the challenges and difficulties, as well as be forgiving of ourselves and others. Reach out for help when you need it, and above all stay calm as we work through this together.