In anticipation of the added stress and anxiety building for students, staff and faculty as they return to campus while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten everyone’s health and wellbeing, the college beefed up its mental health services before the fall semester began.
Jenny-Lee Almeida was seconded from the Canadian Mental Health Association to serve as the college’s manager of student mental health and wellness, and another CMHA counsellor was also brought on board.
“For me, I’ve got my friends and my mom,” Almeida said. “I thought, ‘why don’t we train students because they talk to each other.’ We wanted to focus on adding supports during a time where a lot of students are here at the college and having a connection is so important.”
There were 30 people who took the more in-depth, two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) where they learned the critical skills necessary to offer medical care.
Almeida said students in programs such as Police Foundations, Child and Youth Worker, Personal Support Worker and Nursing took the course as well as members of the college’s security and residence staff.
No alarm bells were going off but we could see the stress level of students and staff was rising.
She describes the two-day program as suicide first aid and similar to CPR training for a moment of crisis.
“If we have a mental health crisis, now we have 30 people on this campus someone can bring a student to for help and we are all speaking the same language for that student.”
As the general manager of the college’s Student Representative Council, he was eager to refresh his skill set.
“We work heavily with our student population and the SRC is in the front of students’ minds all the time. When a student comes into the offices you never know if they’re having a great day or a terrible day. You never know who you’re going to connect with. They could be having a terrible day and you just don’t see it.”
He said the training helps you stay true and calm, and ask the right questions.
“We want to know ‘what are we missing?’ ” Pebbles said. “We can only fix what we know.”