Child and youth care students stress importance of seeking mental health support

Counselling Services provides a safe space for students to reach out during difficult times
Photo: Kimberly Tremblay
Emmanuela Nazaire, left, and Verah-Ninia Lucien, right, pose in C-building at Algonquin College's Ottawa campus.

Emmanuela Nazaire, 26, is a third-year student in the child and youth care program at Algonquin College’s Ottawa campus and is ready to begin her career. She wants to help struggling youth and is well on her way, but her path so far has not been easy.

Burnout among staff working with children has increased during COVID-19, according to The Young Women’s Christian Association of Canada (YWCA).

Nazaire recently completed a field placement at St. Thomas More Catholic School in Ottawa. The experience was more emotionally challenging than she anticipated.

“They had challenges in the classroom. These are the kids impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and there’s behavioural challenges because of it,” Nazaire said.

The child and youth program at the college focuses on teaching students how to be present in the daily activities of children with behavioural challenges and disabilities. Child and youth care workers are there to get children on a routine and help fix behavioural problems.

After struggling with field placement, Nazaire turned to a classmate who knew where she was coming from.

Her friend, Verah-Ninia Lucien, 24, understands the challenges children are facing after being exposed to the emotional effects of COVID-19, and how that can impact the people who work with them.

Lucien was doing field placement at a group home helping young boys who are transitioning out of foster care and into their adoptive families when she faced many challenges working with youth.

“I’ve had moments at placement that weren’t too pleasant. I’ve never experienced racism, and the first time I experienced it was actually at placement from a youth. As a child with a disability, his brain didn’t have the capacity to understand he was saying something in the moment that was hurtful,” Lucien said.

The emotional impact of field placement was surprising to her, but after a heartwarming moment at the group home, it reaffirmed this is where she wants to be.

“One of the kids told me I was his favourite staff on shift. To me, that was really special because beforehand, I was told he doesn’t really connect with staff as easily,” Lucien said.

Professors of the child and youth care program often speak to students about mental health and how to best deal with burnout. Many of them were once working in the field and can understand it’s not an easy job.

“We had a full session on [mental health] last semester on how to avoid burnout. They taught us some strategies on how to avoid it as best as possible,” Nazaire said.

“They encourage us to seek counselling. It’s very important to prioritize yourself and self-care and not leaving that as the last thing you’re doing,” Lucien said.

Both Nazaire and Lucien will turn off their electronic devices and enjoy doing their skincare while watching their favourite TV shows to decompress.

“We’re going to deal with a lot of things and this is why our teachers encourage us to seek counsellors and therapists,” Nazaire said.

As for the future, Nazaire is excited to work with military families. She wants to help children with behavioural and disability challenges.

“I just want to be part of their lives and do life with them. The children go a long time without seeing their parents and that will have an impact on them,” Nazaire said.

Algonquin College is encouraging students to seek counselling services during stressful periods in their lives. Those searching for counselling services can visit a counsellor in E-building.

“We understand that programs aimed at preparing students for careers in the helping professions can present diverse challenges,” said Angela Briggs, manager at counselling services.

“Our approach involves discussing with students how their coursework and practical experiences relate to their personal lives. This dialogue may involve fostering insight and understanding, or when necessary, guiding students to specialized community services for more significant life challenges requiring intensive support.”

Counselling services is encouraging students to use the new student mental health and wellness website to help them navigate their options.

Algonquin Times podcast
Follow Algonquin Times on Instagram
Algonquin Times horoscopes
Algonquin Times on Instagram
Algonquin Times horoscopes
Follow Algonquin Times on Instagram
Algonquin Times podcast
Algonquin Times on Instagram

Sections

Algonquin Times podcast
Follow Algonquin Times on Instagram
Algonquin Times on Instagram
Algonquin Times horoscopes
Algonquin Times on Instagram
Follow Algonquin Times on Instagram
Algonquin Times horoscopes
Algonquin Times podcast

Stay Informed

Sign up for our newsletter

You have been subscribed. Thank you!