Durham College Passes the Stress Test

Photo by Tiago de Oliveira

It doesn’t take an in-depth study of campus life to know students are regularly stressed and have difficulty managing depression and anxiety. Just talk to someone.

A survey last year of more than 25,000 students by the Canadian Organization of University and College Health showed 65 per cent of those surveyed were struggling with overwhelming anxiety, 46 per cent said they felt depressed to the point they were unable to function properly, and 13 per cent said they had contemplated suicide, with just over two per cent attempting it.

Here on campus, Durham College is doing many things to address the needs of students struggling with their mental health.

The college has many programs and incentives to address and support students who suffer from depression and anxiety. There are also trained faculty who help with grief counselling related to loss and major trauma. Students may also be referred to online resources such as the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health for assistance and information of campus initiatives.

Mental health services are offered at both the Oshawa and Whitby campuses and one can be found in the South Village for students living in residence. The college also offers a basic course dealing with mental health first aid that is open not only to students and faculty but to members of the general public.

Katarina Morita, a student from the Law Clerk program, said she had faith in the campus’ efforts to address the needs of mental health.

“The school does a great job at making programs be more diverse and open to everyone who needs to go to it,” she said. “They have little shops set up in the hallways to kind of make themselves more known.”

The college also holds de-stressing events during exam time, such as visiting therapy dogs and tea ceremonies at the Aboriginal Student Centre.

There are also stations set up on different points in the year around the campus that offer free food and beverages, clubs and teams to join, and occasionally, those squishy stress balls that everyone seems so keen on. Another option for students is to schedule an appointment with Student Academic Learning Services (SALS).

Nicky Patel, the director of SALS, said there is a measureable improvement in students who use the resources SALS offers.

“At the beginning of the semester, students who take the time management and organization workshop – it’s only fifty minutes – but those students constantly tell us that taking that workshop, actually got them on the right track, in organizing, in making sure they get to classes on time, planning their work, assignments, exams, making sure it gets done,” she said.

She says SALS hears back from students who, after taking SALS’ workshops, achieve higher grades and provide testimonials the department uses to improve its services and respond to feedback.

“Students will come back and tell us, ‘I was getting marks like this, and took the workshop, now I know to go in and do this, … because of the strategies I was taught,’” she said.

Although there are all kinds of services available and being used on campus, evidence shows students are still struggling.

According to the previously mentioned study, there are higher rates of mental health concerns now compared to the groups’ same survey done only three years prior. Within the study, students said the reasons for unfinished work or missing class was depression at almost 22 per cent, sleep difficulty at nearly 30 per cent, anxiety at just over 30 per cent, and stress at almost 43 per cent. Issues related to finance, injury, illness and addiction all accounted for less than 10 per cent.

If you or someone you know is in need of help, be sure to contact the appropriate support centre for confidential and professional care, or visit durhamcollege.ca/services/campus-services/health-and-medical/mental-health-services.