RRC Polytech looking for student feedback on peer counselling options

By: Joanne Mack

Red River College Polytechnic is looking for student consultation on the development of a potential peer counselling program for students to help with their mental health and connect with their peers. 

Breanna Sawatzky, mental health coordinator for the Healthy Minds, Healthy College initiative, said some students can relate more to another student than to a teacher or counsellor.

“Students want to talk to someone who isn’t judgemental, someone who they can be comfortable talking to, and relate to them more,” Sawatzky said.

Exploring peer counselling is a part of the Healthy Minds, Healthy College initiative. This program could see students participate in group sessions, one-on-one, or both. This program is in the developmental phase, seeking students’ input whether it will be a good fit for them.

With three focus group sessions remaining, RRC Polytech students have the opportunity to give their opinion on the future program. Focus groups are on Oct. 25 and 29, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and Nov. 1 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.     

Coordinator, Breanna Sawatzky, in her office in Notre Dame Campus /JOANNE MACK

Sawatzky said she spent the last five years doing research for this new program. 

Remote learning is challenging, as students are forced to stare at a screen rather than sitting in a room full of their classmates.

“It’s the challenges they face. Remote learning, they feel isolated. Some are loving it, and are thriving, while others are struggling,” Sawatzky said.

Despite RRC Polytech’s ambitions to support mental health through peer counselling, some students feel they wouldn’t benefit from it. 

“Personally, I wouldn’t do it. That’s just me,” said Christine Unrau, a second-year Early Childhood Education student. “I would prefer one-on-one.”

Unrau also said the pandemic and remote learning is affecting students’ mental health.

 “It’s hard as you’re not seeing other people,” she said. “You have support from your classmates, as online it’s only you.” 

The college may adjust their plans for the program, depending on the outcomes of the focus groups. Students can sign up for one of the few remaining dates and receive a $40 gift card. 

“It’s important that we hear from students, and hear what works best for them. They know best. Their voice is important and we really do want to hear from you,” said Sawatzky.