Campus LifeNews

Q&A: Maintaining mental health this school year with the Peer Support Centre

Jennifer Yurkiw is the program lead of the Peer Support Centre at the University of Alberta. Having graduated with a degree in Human Ecology, she’s examined the importance of mental health. She decided to join the Peer Support Centre to help those in need of emotional and psychological support. We asked Yurkiw about mental health, the Peer Support Centre, and how students can take care of their mental health as the school year begins.

The Gateway: What are the consequences of not taking mental health seriously?

Yurkiw: Mental health is characterized as a state of mental wellbeing, so that’s both psychological and emotional wellbeing. I think a potential negative consequence of not looking after mental health would be stress as a result of being a student. People can have difficulty managing the responsibilities that come with being a student or other responsibilities that they have in their lives like family and relationships.

What factors can harm a student’s mental health?

The answer will be different for every individual depending on their experiences and supports. Generally, transitioning into university and experiencing a difference in supports is a factor. This can include moving away from home and parting from high school social circles. Another factor is the academic strain of the university environment and the difference in expectations between university and high school.

What can students do to look after their mental health as the school year begins?

It’s really dependent on each individual person. My suggestion is to incorporate things into your own habits in order to help you feel mentally supported and to build up emotional supports in your lives to relax. If these supports and habits are in place before tougher times come, they become a nice place to fall back on. 

Some specific examples of what people can do to take care of their mental health as the school year begins are:
  • Schedule in self-care! Actually writing down in an agenda or planner when you’ll integrate self-care habits into your schedule can be a great place to start for the year.
  • Get connected on campus! Student Group Services is a great connection for students who are interested in getting involved with a variety of different groups.
  • Week of Welcome events can be a fun way to start off the school year getting to know other students and feeling connected to campus outside of your academic pursuits.

What is the Peer Support Centre?

It’s a Students’ Union service which provides support for members of the campus community. It’s free, safe, confidential, and no student information is required. We work through whatever is most pressing for clients at the time. We have a conversation to understand how clients feel, work through an action plan with them regarding how they want to move forward, and look at what supports they already have in their lives. Our goal is to strive for a safe space where anyone can feel supported and speak to someone free from judgement.

When classes start, people can drop into the centre from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays without an appointment. To assure yourself a spot, you can call our helpline at 780-492-4357 or use the online appointment request form on our website. We offer both in-person and telephone sessions. For general questions, our email is [email protected].

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