Many of us have probably walked by the new purple room downstairs in the UCC and thought, “Where did that come from?” Initial curiosity is usually sidetracked by our hectic run to class or attempt to get in line before Tims shuts down for the day, with no second thought is given.
That new purple room is actually the Wellness Education Centre, which officially opened Feb. 23. The centre’s main purpose is to offer an area where Western students can ask questions and learn about the health resources that are available to them, both on-campus and off-campus.
“The reason why this centre exists is because Western actually has a lot of resources for students, but it can be kind of confusing and intimidating to know where to start,” said Melanie Atkins, the centre’s wellness coordinator.
The Wellness Centre is a collaborative effort amongst several parties including a private donor, the student experience portfolio, the University Students' Council and Health Services.
Jana Luker, associate vice-president of student experience, acted as an administrator and helped with the organization of the project. Her goal was to incorporate the perspectives of both the partners and the students into the Wellness Centre.
“I’m really optimistic about the extended resources for people when they don’t know where to go,” Luker said. “We hear a lot from students that they don’t know how to access resources, even though they are all over campus. We’re just trying to put everything in one place.”
The opening of the Wellness Centre is accompanied by an online wellness guide that all students can access via OWL. Students can download the resource guide online by going into OWL’s membership tab and selecting "joinable sites."
According to USC vice-president internal Alex Benac, the idea for a guide came about a couple of years ago when Western’s students' council visited Cornell University. Cornell had their own guide that was accessible to students and Western has been creating their own guide since then.
“What we’ve got now is a guide that will allow everyone on campus — staff, faculty, students or otherwise — to have a resource that the University put together and is constantly reassessing,” said Benac.
The Wellness Centre also employs two other specialized workers. Angela Treglia is the sexual violence prevention education coordinator at Western and focuses specifically on cases of sexual assault and violence. She strives to help students who are looking for someone to talk to.
There is also a registered dietician, Samantha Gianotti, who is available to meet with students and discuss dietary and nutritional needs. Gianotti has worked here for four years, but her services have not been adequately sought out by students yet.
“I think that close to 50 per cent of the students I see have problems with stress affecting their sleep and appetite and maybe their weight or some health issues,” said Gianotti. “I see a number of students who may be struggling with depression, anxiety or distorted eating and that goes hand-in-hand with nutrition and taking care of yourself and your mental health.”
Some of the services offered include nutrition counselling, meal planning, recipes, weight management and working with one-on-one individual-specific goals. They also work with athletes to increase performance and decrease body fat. Students with the undergraduate health plan are eligible for five free dietary appointments per year.
“I think that it is a really positive idea that has been a long time coming," Gianotti said. "I really hope that [students] take advantage of it. It’s going to be a great opportunity for everyone and everyone can find something that is going to help them out of this centre."
The Wellness Centre offers jobs for students, too, as there are five work-study positions posted in both the summer and fall sessions. Danielle Bristow, a second-year health sciences student, works as a wellness peer educator in the Wellness Education Centre.
“I think this is a really great resource in being able to connect students so that they can receive the help that they deserve,” Bristow said.
The Wellness Centre offers classes free of charge for students in order to help them with their mental health and physical wellness. A bookable space is available to students who are interested in holding their own wellness group activities as well. Open 24 hours, any student can reach out to the centre and book the room for their personal use.
You can visit the Wellness Centre in the basement of the UCC or you can reach out to them at 519-661-2111 x87127.
Gianotti is available Tuesdays and Fridays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you would like to book an appointment you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or give her a call at 519-850-2994 x82994.