The Salmon Arm Secondary School’s Sullivan campus unveiled their newly opened Wellness Centre March 15 with an open house for students and members of the community to see the services they will be offering students in the future.
The open house featured information booths offering facts and resources for mental health issues, most notably depression and anxiety disorders. In addition to a focus on mental health and wellness, counsellors and Wellness Centre team members advised students on the importance of good physical health, including information on substance abuse, addiction, sexual health and safety.
Monica Kriese, Wellness Centre coordinator, believes engaging students about these issues early is very important in ensuring the health and well-being of students.
“Many students won’t access support like this until it is already impacting their attendance. We hope the Wellness Centre can help facilitate kids getting help before it starts to affect their performance in school.”
According to Kriese, one of the main reasons the inclusion of a Wellness Centre within a school is so important is that students can have difficulties accessing this type of support outside of school hours. Many students do not have their own transportation, or they may be uncomfortable going through the steps of scheduling appointments or asking their parents to do so for them.
“I hope this helps students feel more comfortable with reaching out for the support they need,” Kriese says. “We have a relationship with these kids and that hopefully allows them to reach out and get to help sooner, if they need it.”
The Wellness Centre is the first of its kind in the B.C. Interior, taking inspiration from similar programs developed in Nanaimo and Vancouver. The idea was first proposed two years ago and moved forward with support from staff, students and parents alike.
“The staff have been very supportive of this, many of them have wished for something like this before now,” Kriese says. “Support from parents has also been quite good. Our students are in Grade 11 and 12, they are already quite independent and I think parents understand this information is important for them.”
In fact, Kriese says the Wellness Centre is also looking to bring parents into the fold, hosting information sessions and workshops geared at educating parents on mental and physical health issues.
“The key is to include everyone, not just the students. Sometimes it’s even hard for parents to spot something like depression if they don’t know what it looks like. What you don’t know can still harm you.”
The Wellness Centre clinic will be staffed by Dr. Richard Currie and students can drop by for a consultation every Thursday from 11:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.. Kriese says more local doctors are interested in taking part, but details and funding for additional clinic staff will need to be worked out in the future.