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Health Sciences
SFU Co-op Student

Image of Mutinta Bbela in white
Being aware from the beginning of the semester that my professor prioritizes my well-being and is understanding enough to accommodate me during stressful times has had such a positive impact on my mental health.

I think I can say this for a fact, all students like free things. But why aren’t students using the free services available to them through Student Services?

It took me three years to find out about most of the services available to me as a student at Simon Fraser University, and it sounds like most students graduate without ever finding out about these free services. Technically these services aren’t necessarily free because we pay for them in our tuition – but I’d assume that should give us more of a reason to use them.

During my co-op term, I had the privilege of working for SFU’s Health & Counselling Services as part of the Health Promotion team. My role was as The Health Promotion Special Projects Assistant. I’m sure you’re now wondering what health promotion is and what that has to do with student services. Well, according to the World Health Organization, ‘Health Promotion’ is defined as “the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It goes beyond a focus on individual behaviour towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions”. So, the health promotion team basically has different programs, resources and services to help improve the health of students in a holistic way. Most students do not know about the great work being done by this team, and even if they do know about some of the programs, they are unaware that these programs are provided by the Health & Counselling Services. Here are some examples of a few amazing things that the Health Promotion team is doing that you most likely do not know about. Since 2016, the team has been working on a project called the TA/TM well-being project. This project focuses on the well-being of graduate students and the students they teach as teaching assistants and tutor markers. It provides them with various tools and techniques to support themselves and the students they teach. The TAs and TMs in this program have reported experiencing improvements in their well-being as a result of receiving weekly reminders to take care of themselves, others have observed their students speaking out more often after using some of the techniques from this program. Another great project that the Health Promotion team has been working on is the Well-being in Learning Environments project. This project focuses on providing instructional staff with the tools and skills to help make the classroom a healthy and less stressful learning environment. Examples of practices used by professors in this project include informing students about volunteer and career advancement opportunities and creating flexible syllabuses where student input is valued and helps shape the weight and deadlines of some assignments. Having personally had more than one instructor who is part of the Well-being in Learning Environments project has positively impacted my life as a student. Being aware from the beginning of the semester that my professor prioritizes my well-being and is understanding enough to accommodate me during stressful times has had such a positive impact on my mental health.

Beyond the Health Promotion team specifically, Health & Counselling Services is doing so much to improve the health and well-being of students beyond merely seeing patients for their physical and mental health needs. One of the workshops that I helped to facilitate during my co-op term is called Connected Globally, Adjusted Locally. It was a disappointing turnout at this workshop that motivated me to write this blog post. This workshop was created for international students to help them navigate their way through a new academic environment and life in a new country. Topics in this workshop include self-care, budgeting, communication skills, study tips, stress management and navigating cultural experiences and so much more. As an international student, I found that the content in this workshop was incredibly valuable, and if I had the chance to attend such a workshop in my 1st or 2nd year in university, my life would have been a lot easier. I also know for a fact that several domestic students would benefit from this workshop too because it offers so much information that we are unaware of, especially when it comes to student services at SFU.

Other programs ran by Health & Counselling Services include Creative Collective, which is one of my favourite drop-in events. The creative collective provides students, staff and faculty with the opportunity to connect, relax, and unwind through crafts, motion, music, and more. In Spring 2019, Creative Collective collaborated with the games lounge in the Surrey campus and organized a drop-in session once a week in the Mezzanine. While facilitating these drop-in sessions, I got to see adults experience pure joy and excitement to play with Legos and students spend their break between classes playing Jenga, colouring or just having a meal and chatting. People don’t always realize the mental health benefits of taking a creative break, but those 30 minutes spent chatting while knitting or just colouring has so many benefits for our mental health.

I really could ramble on all day about all the awesome things Health and Counselling is doing but I think I’ll stop here. Before I go, I will leave a list below of some of the other programs you may not know about. Because if there’s a chance that at least one student decides to attend an event because of this blog post, it would mean a lot to me and the amazing staff members at Health and Counselling who genuinely want to improve student well-being.

SFU Co-op Student
Mutinta Bbela is a 3rd year International student in the Faculty of Health Sciences. She is passionate about public health and all things social justice & feminism. Her favourite things to do include discovering new restaurants, swimming, yoga and watching a whole lot of Netflix. Stay connected with Mutinta Bbela on LinkedIn

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