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Counselling can aid students in distress

By: Sabrina Bedford

The beginning of the academic year often signals a new start for students, but according to a Sept. 5 article in Maclean’s magazine, not everyone is feeling so refreshed.

The article takes an in-depth look at the mental health crisis occurring across Canadian university and college campuses, detailing the rise in stress and anxiety levels among students. It indicates that a quarter of university-age Canadians will experience a mental health problem at some point.

The reason for these issues can range anywhere from the stress of moving away from home, academic demands, social pressures, and parents’ expectations.

The article shows one of the most effective ways to measure stress is by how often students use services on campus.
Deborah Buck, a student success specialist with Media and Design, said that September can be a particularly stressful time of year for both the college and students.

“It’s busy from the beginning of the year to the end,” she said. “It’s all about connecting and helping the students get stuff done so they can focus on their schoolwork.”

Around the beginning of the year, she is busy helping students with registration and financial issues. She calls herself the first point of contact for student questions and concerns of any nature and she has an open door policy. One of the main issues that students come to her with this time of year is money, she explained.

“Sometimes students are short on funds,” said Buck. “They’re working too many hours, so I try to connect them with bursaries and extra funding so they can manage their time.”

Jeffrey Szelzki, a second-year student in the business management and entrepreneurship program, said the most stressful part of this time of year for him is the long wait for OSAP funding.

“Last year OSAP was stressful due to the endless lineups that you had to wait through,” said Szelzki. “This coming semester the process was supposed to be improved to benefit the student and to decrease wait time and stress.”

However, the wait this year was just as long.

Szelzki works anywhere from 20 to 25 hours per week for Information Institutional Research Technology Services at Algonquin College, and finds balancing work and school to be challenging.

“It’s definitely difficult some weeks,” he said. “I need to be on top of time management.”

With increasing financial and academic strain, Algonquin’s counselling services have permanently increased their hours of operation to accommodate the demand.

John Muldoon, a counsellor at the college, said September is when they see a lot of first year students.
“Right now, we’re getting a lot of new students coming in because it’s a new school year,” said Muldoon. “Students can show up at the front counter and we have a lot of same day slots available, and as long as they’re open, students can take them.”

All subjects are covered, such as depression and anxiety. Personal, academic and career counselling is offered to any Algonquin student enrolled in at least one course.

Muldoon hopes being on social media websites, such as Twitter, will increase the number of students they see come in for help.

“It’s still really new, but we’re hoping social media will increase awareness and help us out a lot.”

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