As part of a campus-wide support system, Lister Hall opened up their guest rooms and extended their services around the clock last weekend for students affected by the shooting in HUB mall.
Approximately 100 students living in HUB checked into Lister on Friday to stay overnight, and up to 200 gathered to take advantage of services such as counseling, long-distance phone calls and meals at no cost to students, provided by the university.
Businesses such as Tim Hortons also donated food and drinks, while The Marina extended its operating hours to provide meals to students. For those who had left their HUB apartments without their personal belongings, toiletry bags were assembled and distributed.
“With Lister, it was amazing — the way people worked together really spoke well of how committed every single person in those units is to making sure that we’re taking care of our students,” said Robin Everall, a professor in Counselling Psychology in the Department of Educational Psychology.
After the HUB Mall incident, an external crisis support team brought in by the university arrived on scene around 2:30 a.m. to provide on-site services over the 75 hours that followed the tragedy.
Community wellness coordinators, chaplains and staff from the mental health unit were available at both HUB and Lister at all times throughout the weekend.
Everall was one of the personnel visiting student suites in HUB throughout the weekend, where one of her priorities was to ensure that students were aware of the variety of services available. Her research within the last year has involved trying to closely connect university services across campus to make them more accessible.
“What I’m really trying to do is take a look at wholes: what is it that we can add to our service, and is there a way that we structure our services so that they make sense to students,” said Everall, who is committed to reducing barriers to seeking help.
One of these barriers for some students seeking mental health services has been language.
“It turns out right now there are large groups of students from China, so UAI (University of Alberta International) collected all of their Mandarin speaking professionals… who can speak Chinese languages to the students,” said Provost and Vice President (Academic) Carl Amrhein.
“We were much better prepared to work with the students now than we would have been, say, three years ago.”
The Health Centre and HUB mall have also created a consultation model that ensures anyone coming in will be guaranteed to see a psychologist with priority access, no matter how many sessions an individual may require.
“I think it’s really key that the particular approach we took in this situation relied on recognizing the fact that as the response progressed, the needs were going to change as people had time to process what had occurred,” said Assistant Director of University Wellness Services, Kevin Friese.
“Rather than one department trying to wholeheartedly assume responsibility for this it really was a campus collaborative approach where you had the international on site, you had the chaplains, you had the mental health centre resources, community wellness program all working collaboratively together.”
Other resources such as the Peer Support Group offered by the Students’ Union have a peer-based system with volunteers who have undergone crisis intervention training to support other students.
“Often students feel a lot more comfortable talking to their peers about some things,” said Students’ Union President Colten Yamagishi.
“I think that the best thing we can do is support these students, just to make sure that anyone who did go through that experience, that they do have access to all the support they need.”
Overall, the counseling efforts and support services offered to affected students were a campus-wide effort that took a great deal of coordinating and communication to organize resources.
Students are encouraged to take advantage of these resources across campus or reach out to their peers in order to help them move forward and regain some sense of normality.
“Ultimately, the number one thing is to reach out for help, even if it’s only once,” said Everall.
The Lister Hall Students’ Association was not available for comment.
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