Today, Western will launch a new web page—Mental Health @ Western. The web page brings together all of Western’s mental health resources to one location. It’s a one-stop shop with devoted sections for students, parents, staff and faculty that links users to counseling and other resources available at Western and in the community.
Nicole Versaevel, health promotion manager for Western health services, oversaw the creation of the site. “We already do a tremendous job providing service to the campus community. The goal of the project really was to improve access, to have one place where people could find out where to go,” she said.
Versaevel explained that previously, each of the three counseling departments had its own website, and there were multiple support locations across campus. Students may have had trouble deciding which service to choose over the others. The new website coordinates all resources available by placing them in one online location.
Gitta Kulczycki, vice-president of resources and operations at Western, explained the University’s stress on mental health awareness has stemmed from recent literature, as well as incidents at other universities. A suicide at Carleton University several years ago sparked an awareness among Ontario universities that safety of their students was paramount. The Ontario information and privacy commissioner even sent a letter to all Ontario universities telling them the safety of an individual was more important than any confidentiality policies they had in place. This urged universities, including Western, to ramp up their mental health services.
In addition, Kulczycki explained recent reports show the demands on university students can stress them out mentally. Kulczycki said this was what shifted the focus from treating mental illness to promoting mental healthiness. The new website is one way of further promoting mental health among Western’s community.
“The take-home goal is that the university is taking a lead role in ensuring that all students or staff or faculty know where to go if they need help,” Versaevel said.
The university is going to great lengths to promote the website now that it has launched. “We’ve done a lot to promote the site for parents and families of students. So often a parent didn’t know what to do or where to tell someone to go,” Versaevel explained. “We’re also promoting it to staff and faculty because they are often the first people to see a student who may be in distress or having a concern.” The website is even being advertised on WebCT, part of the multidimensional roll-out plan that will be hard for students to miss.
“All the services are pretty heavily used as it is, but what we’re really trying to do is find another avenue to educate the whole campus on what to do. We reach out in any way we can, this is just another way of reaching out to people,” Gail Hutchinson, director of the Student Development Centre, said.
Visit uwo.ca/uwocom/mentalhealth/ for more info.