College needs to engage students to spread awareness: student

By Samantha Cortes

Mental health posters cover a bulletin board at the Red River College Exchange District Campus on Jan. 23, 2018. Mental Health Coordinator, Breanna Sawatzky, and Red River College student, Jessica Bonni, said displays like these might not be enough to keep students informed of mental health services. SAM CORTES / THE PROJECTOR

The cold, dark days of winter term may be a good time to remind Red River College students to prioritize their mental health.

While aiming for high academic potential may seem like the right ambition, Breanna Sawatzky, mental health coordinator for RRC at the Notre Dame Campus, said doing so without acknowledging our wellbeing won’t work out well in the end.

“Our mental health is really what allows us to reach our goals,” Sawatzky said in a phone interview.  “I do see students try to put mental health on hold.  They keep underpinning it.  They say, ‘I’m just going to get through,’ for however long their program is.”

It’s no doubt that student-life entails a certain level of dedication to the work.  Jessica Bonni, a third-year nursing student at the RRC NDC knows this concept well.

“The workload is very heavy. We usually have homework and studying every night after school and have minimum time for a part-time job,” she said.

But, tending to mental health should, along with deadlines, make the to-do list.

“What you should be asking is, ‘How can I succeed in this program?’ and that means having a sense of balance in your life,” said Sawatzky.

What’s a student to do to achieve balance?  Sawatzky said there are several things to keep in mind.

“Light is really important, whether it’s getting outdoors or sitting by windows with sunlight.  Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is brought on by lack of daylight,” she said.

Sawatzky also suggested small bouts of physical activity such as walking and going out with friends is beneficial.

“It’s really about not letting winter completely eliminate the things that make you feel good,” she said.

Sometimes, though, there is no getting around feeling overwhelmed.

In this case, RRC has a 24-hour ReliefLine, one-on-one counselling services and the Mind It! Blog, which students can subscribe to that is filled with health tips, Sawatzky said.

Bonni said paying attention to current trends of how students communicate is an important part of RRC health outreach.

“We all have a school email, it would be beneficial to send out emails to make students aware of the services that are available,” she said.

Sawatzky agrees.

“We see a need for improved conversation with students,” she said.  “Something we’ve been trying new this year is posting updates on LEARN because we know students use it more often than they see ads and posters.”

For students who need support, please contact RRC Counselling Services at (204) 632-2121 for room D102 at the NDC or phone (204) 949-8375 for room P210 at the Exchange District Campus (EDC).  Or, visit the following resources: