Among the next steps for the growth of residence counselling are services offered in international languages and a new social work intern, mentioned at the Campus Affairs Committee meeting on Thursday.

Given the large international student population at UTM, UTM’s personal and student family life counsellor Heather Burns-Shillington said that services offered in additional languages would allow students to seek help in their native language.

In her presentation on “Mental Health in Residence”, Burns-Shillington explained that UTM will also get an intern on residence who is completing their Master’s in Social Work; however, the exact role and responsibilities of the intern have not been defined.

According to Burns-Shillington, the wait times for personal counselling are three days for residence students and 24 hours for crisis situations. She mentioned that on average, she sees one student per day who is at risk for suicide.

A qualified social worker, Burns-Shillington provides individual and family counselling and staff and student training workshops at UTM. In 2015, 87 staff and students received training in a two-day ASIST suicide prevention workshop and 150 staff and students attended the one-day safeTALK workshop.

According to the presentation, most of her clients are upper-year female domestic students. Burns-Shillington said that students request counselling for three main reasons, the most common being anxiety, then relationships (which includes family, friends, and romantic relationships). The third most common reason is suicidal thoughts and depression.

One of the Student Housing and Residence Life’s initiatives to promote mental health was the Mental Wellness Week last semester, which consisted of educational activities based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Take Notice, Connect, Learn, Give Back, and Get Active.

The department will organize Lunch ’n’ Learn Sessions during the winter semester according to Burns-Shillington, in which students can discuss topics such as addictions, radicalization, and mental health.

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