Students at SAIT now have access to 24-hour Mental Health Support thanks to Student Development and Counselling Services’ new partnerships with the Distress Centre and Wood’s Homes Community Resource Team.
Lois Hayward, supervisor of Student Development and Counselling Services, discussed the details of the program and partnerships in an interview.
The Student Development and Counselling Services office is in room AA205 in the Heritage Hall building.
“So, with our services, although we have some evening hours,”said Hayward, “we are not 24/7, and [recognize] students sometimes need to talk to someone at another hour of the day.”
Currently when a student calls Student Development and Counselling Services after hours, they will be directed to a voice messaging system prompting them to connect with a counsellor from the Wood’s Homes Community Resource Team (available until 11 p.m.), or a volunteer at the Distress Centre (available 24/7 and in 200 languages).
“I think the 24-Hour Mental Health Support line is beneficial because students’ schedules are sometimes too hectic to get help from Alberta Health Services because of their limited hours, or waiting lists,” Maria Serpico, a first-year petroleum engineering technology student, said.
Student Development and Counselling Services has always promoted and worked with these organizations, but the problem was people have had to write down the number or they had to reference business cards given to them.
“We wanted to just really take another step forward with those partnerships,” said Hayward.
Last year the University of Calgary approached Hayward and mentioned that they would be the first post-secondary institution in Alberta to pilot the program.
Due to the success of the pilot program, the Distress Centre, Wood’s Homes and Hayward started to work together to bring the program to life at SAIT.
U of C, SAIT and now Mount Royal University are currently working together to have the 24-Hour crisis support in place at all three institutions.
Hayward attended a meeting recently that involved these institutions and the 24-Hour Mental Health Support line.
She learned that the Distress Centre and Wood’s Homes Community Resource Team will be provided information specific to each institution.
The goal is to help prepare these counsellors and volunteers, so they can better understand the type of student they are speaking to.
In regards to SAIT, counsellors and volunteers could be speaking with a student in a fast-track program, an apprenticeship program, or continuing education.
Due to the variety of programs and courses available at SAIT, a student’s academic experience is going to be different compared to a university student.
Having access to the 24-hour support line connects students with the multitude of services available through the Distress Centre and Wood’s Homes, including Mobile Response Teams, Online Support, and Crisis Support.
Woods Homes also has a free, walk-in, single-session counselling clinic called Eastside Family Centre which is open Monday to Saturday at Northgate Village Mall.
“Our services, although we have some evening hours…are not 24/7, and [we recognize] students sometimes need to talk to someone at another hour of the day.” – Lois Hayward
“If you’re in crisis and really having difficulty, yes it’s really important to reach out, but sometimes you just need to talk to someone,” said Hayward.
“I think there’s a real misnomer about people thinking that it has to be a certain thing, or that a counsellor’s going to tell you what to do. No, it’s really about helping you [talk about it]. We facilitate the problem solving process.”