This past year, I have done a lot of self-reflection on my mental health and wellbeing. Frankly, it has been a hard year for everyone, and we students are no exception. I am currently in my fourth year at MUN, and decided to avail of the campus Student Wellness and Counselling Centre (SWCC) for the first time in my degree this fall. Honestly, it went much better than I had expected.
The SWCC “offers non-urgent physical and mental health care” to the university community on an appointment basis. As for the counselling services, students can typically avail of short-term therapy for free for up to eight one-hour sessions “per student per academic year”. Students can meet with “registered clinical psychologists and wellness counsellors, along with supervised doctoral residents and graduate students” to seek help.
In my second year, I tried to get an appointment with them and it did not go so well. I was told there was a waitlist that would take me to the end of the fall semester. Considering it was late-September, it did not look good. I have always been someone to try to focus on my mental health and take care of my brain and body, but it took a lot for me to go admit I needed help. To be told of the long waitlist was… well, devastating. I was unable to avail of private mental health services for various reasons and decided to ‘go it alone,’ as it were.
Fast forward until now. This year took a tremendous toll on my mental wellbeing as I am sure it has done for many others as well. After noticing how poorly I was handling the mounting stress of online learning and the pandemic, I decided that enough was enough and reached out, once again, to the SWCC for the second time.
I really did not expect much.
Based on my experience in second year, I anticipated an email back describing long wait lists. This was not the response I received.
Within three days I found a reply to my email inquiring about mental wellness services. Two days after that I had my initial appointment (via WebEx) with a member of the SWCC to determine how they could best help me. The person from my initial appointment assigned me to a counsellor. After filling out some self-assessment and personal information forms, I met with the counsellor on WebEx. There was probably only a week and a half between my email and my first counselling appointment.
I am unsure how or why the wait time was so short this semester: perhaps the switch to online meant a more streamlined system, or maybe less people were using the SWCC. Either way, the solution-based sessions I had with a counsellor were very beneficial.
During the sessions, I was given resources and exercises to continue my work on my own once the sessions were over. As said above, the SWCC does not offer long-term therapy, instead offering short-term help and extending resources for a more long-term solution. My experience was very positive – the counsellor I saw helped me work through many issues, especially regarding stress management and emotions. As well, she sent me book recommendations and exercises to do to ensure I kept up on my mental health.
While short-term counselling is in no way the be-all-end-all of mental health, it is a service available to students for free. If you are struggling, there is no shame in reaching out and it is definitely worth your while to reach out the SWCC.