February 22, 2024


Being a student is stressful. Balancing work and social and school life, along with having time to sleep, eat and work out, is a lot to have on one’s plate. Homework and assignments are stressful. Deadlines and keeping your grades up are stressful. Being a student is stressful; some students are so stressed that they become anxious or depressed. In fact, according to Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one in every five Canadians suffers from some form of mental illness, with a large majority of them being students. Thankfully, Conestoga College has the resources to help students who are struggling. Conestoga’s Counselling Services is among the best in the region.

“I think we work very hard to provide good service to students,” said Shawna Bernard, counsellor and co-ordinator of Counselling Services. “I think we have a very good reputation and we try to make minimal wait lists and emphasize the need for timely service.”

Sara Sasila, a former human resources management student, said, “I have seen my friends’ quality of life improve so much after they started using Counselling Services. Their mood and overall well-being increased tenfold. There are other schools that I’ve heard have a six-month wait time, and I think Conestoga blows them out of the water. It really shows that the school cares about their students.”

The department has nine counsellors who divide their time between four campuses: Guelph, Doon, Cambridge and Waterloo. Each counsellor is trained at a masters level in social work, psychology or education. Though this time of year is particularly busy for them, the wait time for an appointment is still less than a week.

“Accessing counselling support is considered a normal strategy for creating success,” said Bernard. “We see over 1,300 students a year and have over 4,000 appointments. We would like to reduce the stigma around seeking support and let students know that there are good services available to them.”

According to the CAMH’s website, “in any given year, one in five Canadians experiences a mental health or addiction problem.” One of the main triggers of anxiety is stress, so, having a stressful schedule – which many students do – can contribute greatly to the level of anxiety in someone’s life. Anxiety is the most common form of mental illness.

Counselling Services uses the method of “talk therapy” or psychodynamic therapy, which helps students alleviate the stressors in their minds by bringing forward thoughts that may be hidden in the unconscious mind. Counsellors also specialize in cognitive behaviour therapy, which is a goal-oriented type of therapy that involves changing patterns of thinking or behaviours, which, in turn, will change the way someone feels.

“Last year I had one-hour sessions every two weeks for two months at the college. Instead of the psychologist giving me tests and games to help me with my problems, she let me direct my own care and set me up on a plan to improve my mental health and get me back on track to a more stable mental state,” said Keenan O’Donoghue, a journalism student. “For the first two sessions she listened to my life and the issues I have faced. In the next four sessions she worked side-by-side with me to create a plan or strategy to help me cope with the mental health issues I had been having. I feel like I now know what to do when issues come up again. I’m not as lost as I was before.”

Counselling Services is available to any student registered in a program at Conestoga College and is located in Room 1A101 at the Doon campus.

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