New space opens doors to wellness at Brescia

Paul Mayne//Western NewsOrganizers gather in the newly launched Peer Support Space at Brescia University College, a drop-in wellness space offering students support from their peers.

Wellness has a new home at Brescia University College – a campus location organizers hope students make their first stop when the first signs of personal crisis arise.

This week, the Western affiliate college opened its Peer Support Space, a drop-in wellness centre staffed to offer students support from their peers.

Supported through funding from The Gerald C. Baines Charitable Foundation, the space is located in the St. James Building (Room 157), and offers a “calming aesthetic” with candles and air diffusers, items to help with grounding such as weighted blankets, slap bracelets, white noise machines, and resources for students to learn from, and with, their peers.

“As a student, I believe it’s crucial for Brescia to have a program where students have the opportunity to support one another, and seek out care from their peers in a safe space as they make their way through university,” said Cassandra Cozman, Wellness Peers student coordinator.

Previously known as Wellness Education Peers, Wellness Peers are Brescia students interested in mental health and wellbeing. Advised and trained by Student Life Centre, Wellness Peers undergo extensive training informed by the recommendations from Peer Support Canada, knowledge regarding resources and referrals, ongoing in vivo practice of soft skills, and safeTALK.

Within the new space, Wellness Peers will be available for 10 hours a week Monday-Thursday for Brescia students experiencing mild-to-moderate mental-health concerns. This service is the first stop for many students before accessing further services, if needed.

“Peer to peer is a platform that has proven to be effective when it comes to mental wellness for students,” said Cozman, adding no identifying information will collected from students seeking assistance.

“It can be intimidating for a student to go in and seek support from a staff or faculty member. Being able to come to a space that’s calm and comforting, and be able to talk to a fellow student who is going through similar situations that you are, makes it more comfortable and less intimidating.”

Marianne Simm, Vice-Principal of Students at Brescia, sees the new space as continuing an important push for mental-health and wellness supports by Brescia and Western.

“Throughout the past decade, Brescia has worked proactively to offer a variety of mental-health opportunities, designed to educate and assist our students,” Simm said. “While many of our students are now more aware of identifying signs of mental health, they may not be entirely sure of their next steps. This new Peer Support Space is a natural next step for our community, and a wonderful way for our students to support one another.”

Cozman sees the program and its new space as a “wonderful opportunity” for students to not only support one another, but also help themselves.

“Sometimes, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, just being able to talk someone and have them listen and tell you they understand and it’s going to be OK can be so important,” she said. “We want every student that comes to this space to feel safe, to feel welcome.”