Just look for the sign. Science students are closer than ever to wellness supports – be it advice in the moment or a bridge to wider university services – all thanks to the faculty’s new approach based on a not-so-new idea.
Inspired by the Block Parent program pioneered in London in the 1960s, the Care Zone program relies on a similar network of trained faculty and staff with easily recognizable signage on their doors, providing support to students in need.
“We have representatives in every Science and Basic Medical Science department who have been trained to listen, recognize, and respond to students in need,” said Martha Fuller, Manager of Science Student Services and architect behind Care Zone.
“A student can seek out a representative for anything from directions to an exam, guidance, or help in situations of acute mental distress. The representative can respond accordingly – by lending a friendly ear or referring the student directly to an expert on campus.”
Taking full advantage of the extensive mental-health network that exists at Western, the program lengthens that network to meet those in need in their departments, Fuller said.
Every department has its own representatives, but any student can knock on any door regardless of their field of study. While the representatives are not qualified therapists or mental wellness coaches, they are trained in how best to direct students toward the services they need.
“Not only is this about getting students the help they need, but also connecting them, via faculty and staff, to a well-developed web of support that already exists at Western,” Fuller said.
As the program moves forward, representatives will hold monthly meetings to assess their processes and modify them accordingly.
“I would love to see this idea taken up across all the faculties at Western,” Fuller said. “Our counterparts across the university are showing a keen interest, and just like us, they’re passionate about helping students and finding innovative ways to do so.”