Darien Wong-Shaw, a first year Police Foundations student at Durham College, sits at a counter in the Pit with tubes in his nose attached to different colours of liquids.
“I feel very relaxed, I feel super chilled out,” he says. “When it first turned on I was a bit light headed. I didn’t really know what it was but it looked really cool so I thought I would try it out.”
Wong-Shaw was one of many students getting an extra oxygen boost to help with mental stress during exams.
Durham College Student Inc. (DCSI) recently set up an oxygen bar and a stand with exam kits in the Pit.
“We have some fresh fruit that we’re handing out. We’ve got some destress exam kits too that might be helpful at this time of year,” says Carly Woodword, DSCI’s event co-ordinator. “There’s water bottles, USB sticks, and Smarties to make you smarter.”
DCSI provides multiple services for students attending Durham College, including a food bank, dental benefits, insurance and mental health counseling.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, by age 25 about one in five Canadians will develop a mental illness.
DSCI wants to make sure there’s help for them.
“We also brought in an oxygen bar, which prompts alertness, it makes you feel more awake,” says Woodword. “A lot of students say they feel so much better after they’ve done it.”
Dave McNamara, president of Element Oxygen Bars, has been operating them for 15 years in Canada. He started his company in 2004.
Although the oxygen machines do not cure any mental illnesses, according to McNamara, he says they do refresh the mind and help temporarily with focusing in a healthy way.
“When you have a lot of people inside all day, breathing recycled air, the oxygen juices up your bloodstream. You need a natural refresher,” he says.
Element Oxygen Bar goes to conferences and school events to get rid of what’s he calls “conference symptoms.”
He says the head starts to feel cloudy and it is hard to focus. He adds these symptoms occur when people are stuck inside all day, have poor posture, and are focussing on their devices.
“If you’re prone to them that’s when the headaches start happening, which turn into migraines,” he says.
Students crowded around the bar were curious. A lot of them tried the oxygen bar for the first time.
“I feel a little bit more refreshed. I was stressed before, exams are the majority of my stress,” says DC student Kaya Crockford.
DCSI is also creating more initiatives to aid students and their mental health.
Veronica Trask, marketing manager for DCSI, emphasizes the importance of providing mental health support to the students.
“We have outreach services at the student centre,” says Trask. “Basically there’s social services workers and events there for mental wellness and how to cope.”
DSCI is hosting another event in May for mental health called Wellness Week, introducing more interactive pop-ups for students.