Thursday, 19 May 2016 09:42

MHC students well-being and mental health looked after

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It was Pet Therapy day near the Medicine Hat College's Pet Therapy as part of the Student Association's Stress Week therapy sessions Nov. 5, 2015. It was Pet Therapy day near the Medicine Hat College's Pet Therapy as part of the Student Association's Stress Week therapy sessions Nov. 5, 2015. File photo

For those who have even done any post secondary education, they will understand the amount of stress students, not the party lifestyle/atmosphere often stereotyped.

According to the Alberta Students' Executive Council (ASEC), funding support for mental health programs was the largest priority for the organization due to the direction from its membership base. According to the ASEC website, following the 2016 Alberta provincial budget "ASEC’s 14 member students’ association will share $600,000 that will continue to fund student-led initiatives through the Alberta Campus Mental Health and Innovation (ACMHI) fund. This funding will go towards meeting the needs of 105,000 students located across the province. Additional funding was awarded to five of Alberta’s universities in the amount of $3,000,000."
From that, the Students Association of the Medicine Hat College (SAMHC) was given $130,000 over three years to help operate the college's peer support centre which has helped with mental health.
The college's peer support team recently received an award from ASEC "for their outstanding work on mental health initiatives and will be showcased to Alberta Health Services and the provincial government in a video case study later this spring. They also had the opportunity to share their success with other institutions at the ACMHI Wellness Summit in January."
It's due to the hard work from the Students Association staff who have come up with different innovative programs.
Michael Fritzler —Vice president of Student Life for the college and is also president of Under the Rainbow Community Group which provides support services for the LGBTQ community and its supporters — says the peer support on the college makes the difference.
"Peer support can make a make a big difference to a student," explains Fritzler. "What is really good is how the peer support team can deal with (students) with confidence and respect."
Fritzler says they usually have 10-12 student volunteer staff members per school year and the peer support coordinators train them on how to handle all situations. Many of the students who get involved are social work or criminal justice students looking to not only help fellow students but to hone their own skills.
The SAMHC also have other programs in place such as the puppy therapy where dogs were brought in for students to play with and pet to alleviate tension, especially during peak stress times. Punching bags, hula hoops and the sledge hammering of a car have also been big hits — literally. It has helped with the problem.
According to a Medicine Hat College news release, prescription drug use by MHC students was cause for concern three years ago, but mental health issues became a focal point to address. 
"In 2013, members of the Students’ Association at MHC (SAMHC) reviewed the types of prescription drugs being processed through the student health and dental plan and discovered an alarming statistic," an official statement read, "Nine out of the top 10 prescribed drugs for MHC students were anti-depressants. Three years later, he and the SAMHC team have solid proof that their efforts, and those of the executive teams and staff before them, are making a difference. Now, only four out of 10 prescriptions processed on the student health plan are for anti-depressants."
The other area of support was for the LGBTQ students and Fritzler says the SAMHC's efforts with the new Under the Rainbow group and its support for LGBTQ students on campus has been good too.  Fritzler says that last year they had a couple of inaugural events and the support and attendance was overwhelming.
PRIDE Week and some LGBTQ events are planned for the fall as Fritzler says it would be great for those students new or previous to start the school year knowing they will be supported and have somewhere to turn with Under the Rainbow.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor