RRC’s mental health resources adapt amid campus closures

By: Katlyn Streilein

Rebecca Ward began her final year in Red River College’s nursing program under a travel-related quarantine for COVID-19. 

The 26-year-old was over 4000 kilometres from Winnipeg in a Cabo San Lucas hotel room when she saw the clip of Justin Trudeau telling Canadians abroad to come home. 

Ward said she unsuccessfully tried to bump up the date of her return flight and landed in Canada on March 18—five days before her program’s remote learning start date.

“For me, the hardest part is just the unknown,” said Ward. “There was so much unknown going on that we were like trapped in this house of emotion.” 

Most of Ward’s classes are now online and said she’s been refunded for the in-hospital portion of the course. She said the change has been overwhelming at times and cited uncertainty around grades, tests, and a lack of routine as sources of stress. 

Ward said she’s considering re-connecting with the counselling services at the school. 

“I think it’s important to be able to speak to someone throughout such an unprecedented time.”

In light of the campus closures, Counselling and Accessibility Services has begun providing therapy sessions online, through WebEx. 

Laureen Janzen, RRC’s Counselling and Accessibility Services manager said students have been appreciating the face-to-face nature of the WebEx counselling and added that counsellors will continue to accommodate over-the-phone appointments. 

Students and faculty can access RRC’s counsellors for free. To sign up, interested parties can fill out a form on the college’s website. Applications are currently being processed on a same-day or following-day basis, from which point the wait time to meet with a counsellor is approximately three days. 

“Just because we’re all very concerned about student well-being right now—I know there’s so much transition going on—we are trying to get back to students as quickly as possible,” said Janzen. 

Additionally, students get referrals to mental health professionals not affiliated with RRC through Counselling and Accessibility Services. 

Breanna Sawatzky, RRC’s mental health coordinator, said this period of transition for students is fraught with challenges and information overload. 


“Some students might be affected by job loss or lay-offs as well as the school change. Other students might have kids at home with them while they’re doing their schoolwork now or are sharing computers,” said Sawatzky. 

Alternatively, RRC is providing students with access to Beacon, a digital therapy service which connects users to licensed therapists. Students can access the therapy portion of the service at no charge for 12 weeks, and the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) modules can be accessed for one year. 

“We really just want to get the word out that we’re here, that we’re available, and we want to be supportive, and help people continue on being successful this semester,” said Janzen. 

According to Janzen, roughly 1100 students currently use RRC’s health and accessibility services.