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Loyalist student counsellors’ schedules are full, even before peak season

Loyalist Student Success director Aaron Doupe (giving out candy to students in the college dining hall) says the peak periods for students seeking counselling are the end of October and start of November in the fall semester and mid-March in the winter semester. File photo by Brock Butler, QNet News

By Graham Whittaker [1]

BELLEVILLE – Student counsellors at Loyalist College are facing full schedules right now – and it isn’t even a peak time of the school year for students in search of support.

With the Bell Let’s Talk [2] campaign taking place all month and Jan. 20 being branded Blue Monday [3], supposedly the saddest day of the year, a quick Google search [4] shows that January is gaining a reputation as the most depressing month of the year.

Aaron Doupe, Loyalist’s Student Success [5] director, says that counsellors’ schedules are full right now – but that’s nothing new.

“I would say it’s been business as usual,” Doupe told QNet News Friday. “We’re always here to support students, but our counsellors’ schedules are quite full. But I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s been busier than other times.”

The peak times for students to seek help are when stress levels are highest during the school year, rather than at the start of a semester, he said.

“I would say our schedule tends to mirror the students’ schedule. We will be busiest when exams are coming up, or big assignments, so we really see more activity around March and November.”

This trend can be seen consistently in most schools across Ontario, with the prevailing issues that students need support with being anxiety, depression, relationships and stress, Doupe said.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health [6] in Toronto reports that 70 per cent of all mental-health problems have their onset before people reach the age of 24, making students high-risk. By age 40, the centre says, half of Canadians will have either experienced or been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Student Success counselling services at Loyalist College are free for students. After filling out a form disclosing some basic information, a student can make an appointment for the next available counselling slot.

“I’m a big fan of counselling in general,” Doupe said. “I always say to be proactive.

“Certainly if someone’s feeling overwhelmed, if someone’s feeling upset, (if) there are thoughts of self-harm or suicide, come and see us right away … We’re here for students. And it’s an opportunity to have counselling at no additional cost.”

Immediate time slots are always available for students in crisis situations, he said.

The January mental-health campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk are a great way to get the conversation started, Doupe said.

“I do like the idea of having (recognition of) Blue Monday, because it’s a nice chance for us to talk about mental health, and Bell Let’s Talk as well –just having that conversation and talking about mental health, to get rid of that stigma. I think there’s been a lot of progress on that front, and I’m really happy that there are more opportunities like this.”

Bell Let’s Talk, started in 2011, aims to reduce feelings of alienation faced by those struggling with their mental health by creating a platform for people to share their experiences. The campaign also raises money for mental-health services. On Let’s Talk Day, which this year is Wednesday, Bell makes a five-cent donation for every social-media interaction using the #BellLetsTalk [7] hashtag and every text made on a Bell plan. Total donations over the years stand at $100.7 million, 

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says that while progress in reducing the stigma around mental-health issues has been made, a survey it did in 2015 found that 64 per cent of Ontario workers said they would be concerned if a co-worker had a mental illness, and 39 per cent of those experiencing mental-health problems said they would not tell their manager.