The Student Wellness Centre is the medical clinic on campus. It is intended for use by all undergraduate students, especially those living away from their own family doctor. The Centre is staffed by six doctors each day as well as nurses and other support staff. Medical specialties that are available here are sports medicine, naturopathic therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy. All physicians are available for counseling and prescribing of medications for mental illness. Referral to counseling services, community services, medical specialists and psychiatry are some of the options available for ongoing care. Psychiatry services are provided by a part-time psychiatrist, for consultation and ongoing care as required. The Mental Health Team Nurse coordinates the combined services provided by the psychiatrist, medical doctors and counsellors.
Services include individual appointments, walk-in consultations and psycho-educational programming. A variety of personal concerns are frequently brought to counseling services, including adjustment to life at McMaster, stress management, anxiety, depression, loss and grief, substance abuse, loneliness, sexuality, eating concerns, relationship difficulties. If you are concerned about your student, encourage them to come in to see a counsellor or a physician. We ask that students call to make their own appointments, rather than having you make one for them.
Supportive counselling is available from the personal counsellors in the Student Wellness Centre. Counselling could be for emotional upset or concerns about how emotions are affecting a student’s academic performance. The purpose is to provide support and teach the student skills that help them to deal with whatever stress is causing problems. Sometimes stress that goes unchallenged can lead to mental illness, by developing into depression or an anxiety disorder. This becomes more difficult to manage and may require medical support. Our team of family physicians has a wealth of experience in dealing with student mental health.
A thorough assessment is done to rule out medical causes and once the mental illness diagnosis is made, the student will decide about the treatment plan. Options to consider include medication, personal counselling or group counselling sessions.
Confidentiality and consultations: It is natural for parents who are concerned about their child’s wellbeing to want information about whether their student has come to counseling and if they are making progress. However, confidentiality is critical to the success of the counseling endeavour, and we adhere to all legal and professional guidelines pertaining to the confidentiality of student counseling information. These guidelines prevent us from releasing any information about a student’s participation in counseling without their written consent. This means that we cannot share with you whether we have, or have not, seen or heard from your student, even if they have told you themselves that they are coming to see a counsellor. However, we do want to hear from you if you have serious concerns about your student, and are worried about their safety. Please remember that any information you share with a counsellor will be discussed with your student.
At the Student Wellness Centre (SWC) groups are designed to instruct students with the same difficulties to manage the symptoms they are experiencing. An example would be social anxiety, where students participate in a group to learn coping strategies. We also encourage students to develop a personal care plan. This involves the student setting goals to change their behaviour to a more healthy practice that will enhance their mental health. Examples would be to sleep at regular hours or to exercise daily. In cases of complicated mental illness, the Student Wellness Centre has a consulting psychiatrist or the student may be referred to specialized services in the Hamilton community.
All SWC groups are free and confidential. Email the facilitator to find out the start date of the group. Some groups are offered more than once in the term, and this is indicated by the number of sessions. Participants will be expected to fill out an intake form and attend sessions as indicated by the facilitator. Groups often have recommended readings or between sessions activities. Any questions can be directed to the facilitator. Repeat attendance is welcomed .
The Student Wellness and Education Lower Lounge (SWELL) located in the McMaster University Student Centre basement, Room B118 is open for students. With its funky blue sign and its calm and resourceful interior, students will find the SWELL a place to relax, enjoy a tea, read, pick up wellness resources, study and chat with friends.
The SWELL offers weekly programming that can help students learn about themselves and their health. Topics include managing stress, eating well, staying active and taking care of students’ sexual health. Students can also ask staff and Student Success Leaders wellness-related questions and can obtain the information and resources they need.