Mental health nurse coming to Queen's Student Health Clinic
Student Health Services is receiving provincial government funding for a mental health nurse.
This new position at Queen’s will boost services and support for students requiring care for mental health issues.
Medical director Suzanne Billing applied for the funding through the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s “500 Nurses Initiative” approximately one year ago.
“I jumped at the opportunity, when the funding was advertised” says Dr. Billing. “In terms of mental health care for students, we are under resourced for our population. It will be fantastic to have a nurse with this type of specialized training.”
Dr. Billing is hoping to have the nurse in place by September and she says the added resource should have an immediate impact on the number of students who can be served.
“We see a lot of people who are under stress and as a result become anxious, but don’t necessarily have a medical or mental health disorder,” she says.
“They often need help learning how to cope with stressors which, in a university context, are a given, particularly at certain times during the academic year. Many would benefit from assistance in developing skills related to studying, exams, and time-management, to name a few. Acquiring such skills can help them from becoming overwhelmed. When students become increasingly anxious about academic demands, along with personal stressors, and have not had an opportunity to develop coping strategies, they may be at risk of developing a mental health illness, such as depression.”
Dr. Billing expects the mental health nurse will introduce new elements of care to existing services.
“I am hoping we can start to offer therapy for groups; it can help us to serve more people with the resources we have. The efficacy is high and comparable to individual therapy,” she says. “The nurse will also be involved in coordinating care for new students, so that when someone arrives at Queen’s with a pre-existing mental health issue, we can help them become familiar with the resources available at Queen’s and in the community, and how to access them.”
Dr. Billing is also working towards adding a second part-time psychiatrist to the team at Student Health Services by the fall.
Both of these positions are in addition to new mental health counsellors that are being added in Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS).
HCDS Director Mike Condra says every effort is being made to get expanded resources in place for the academic year.
“Both in health services and counselling services, we know we need more people and more support for students. We hope these efforts will help to address the need. It’s a multi-faceted approach that also includes raising awareness across the entire campus community about mental health and how we can help each other.”