Story submitted by Caryn Langstaff, Director of Wellness, Accessibility & Student Success
Student Wellness & Accessibility has completed its year-long pilot project providing weekend and after-hours mental health counselling in Residence. St. Lawrence College, in partnership with Student Living, Sodexo, and Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), was a successful applicant under the Ministry of Colleges and Universities Mental Health Call for Proposals, which provided funding for the project. The project’s impacts are shared their report, “Improving Student Outcomes in Residence while Diverting Critical Emergency Health Care Resources.”
Living in Residence in typical circumstances can sometimes be isolating and anxiety-provoking for new students, but at the time of the project’s implementation, COVID-19 restrictions constrained opportunities for a social engaging and connected student living experience in Residence, exacerbating isolation and anxiety in students. The goal of having a counsellor in Residence providing weekend and after-hours professional mental health support and interventions was to mitigate experiences of distress and crisis, and to empower students to build social connections, develop coping behaviors, and apply strategies for personal resilience. This position also had a key role in collaboration with and providing supports for Residence staff in both social engagement planning and in more challenging or critical contexts.
Further, having a regulated health professional available in Residence after hours filled a gap in access to mental health supports by providing real-time assessment and intervention for students in crisis. Mental health expertise within the Residence aimed to moderate potential over-utilization of Emergency Response Services and KHSC’s over-burdened Emergency Department as sole option for response planning. By improving the student experience, well-being, and personal resilience within Residence, high-risk crisis events were reduced, and student success and retention was positively impacted. Real-time access to professional supports and assessment also reduced the already overburdened healthcare system.
Among the impacts of the project:
- 13 Residence students diverted from Emergency Medical Services or Emergency Department transfer over a six-month intervention period (76% of these needs were after hours)
- Increased and improved Residence programming after-hours mental health service access, including 90 shifts, 123 individual counselling sessions; multiple and diverse social outreach and psychoeducational group sessions
- Real-time access (no wait times) for mental health services on weekends and after hours
- Student and staff reports of improved living experience, improved perceived resilience, and overall satisfaction with the programming
- Increased awareness of mental health supports, including SLC Student Wellness
- Residence attrition due to mental health dropped by more than half
If you would like to review the full project report, please contact Caryn Langstaff, Director of Wellness, Accessibility and Student Success at firstname.lastname@example.org.