Accessing Wellness Supports at the U of A

No matter where you are in your university journey, there are resources to support your health and wellness every step of the way.


Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Being a university student is exciting: there are countless opportunities for academic, personal, and professional discovery and growth. But, let's face it, being a student can also be hard: there are dozens of challenges and transitions to continuously navigate. Luckily, the Wellness Supports team (formerly the ACCESS team) facilitates workshops, training, events, and individual support for all U of A students to access at no charge. Thanks to the Wellness Supports team, students have the opportunity to take a holistic approach to their mental and physical health to support success in their academic and personal lives. We talked to four members of the team— Heather Ritz (Community Social Worker), Ashley Hlewka (Community Broker), Christine Cabildo (Student Team Coordinator), Clint Galloway (Director)— about how students can make the most of the Wellness Supports available to them.

Take a proactive approach to mental health

You don't need to be going through a crisis or a series of hardships to access Wellness Supports. There is no problem too small, and you can reach out for help any time. In fact, the Wellness Supports team recommends accessing their services when life is going well to learn about the tools, resources, and techniques to use when life does become stressful. "I think sometimes students feel like something major has to happen in their lives to access support, but we are 100% available for anything," Ashley says.

"The start of the school year is a great time for students to connect with us to learn how to sustain mental health, take care of yourself, and take care of others," Heather says. "Most students really want to do well academically, and if there's one thing that a student can do to help themselves in the classroom, it's to take advantage of resources and services that will help them in other aspects of their life," Clint says. "When you're mentally and physically well, it affects how you learn. Spend some time taking a workshop to learn about different aspects of your own personal health, or talk to someone about specific concerns."

It's okay to be nervous

If you have never accessed a service through Wellness Supports before, you may feel nervous about reaching out for help. "You are not the only one feeling like this," Clint says. "There are a lot of students who need support, and it's completely normal to ask for help. I personally recommend that students access a session with a counsellor or social worker at least once a semester to normalize the experience of getting support for themselves, and maybe even learn how to be more supportive to other people in your life." If you're not sure which service is best for you, just reach out and the Wellness Supports team can guide you. "We're here to meet people where they are and we have done our best to create a welcoming, non-judgemental environment," Ashley says.

Learn how to adjust to university life

In Fall 2021 many first and second-year students will visit U of A's campuses in-person for the first time. There are several Wellness Supports services that can help students familiarize themselves with campus, adjust to university life, and meet new people. "If you're new on campus and you're thinking 'where do I go? Where are the best places to eat? How do I connect with others?' UniTea is a fantastic resource," Heather says. UniTea provides students with opportunities to talk one-on-one with a peer or alumni, or with other students in a group, and are offered online and in-person. "Talking to a peer about campus life is a whole other level of connection and encouragement that I think is invaluable." Students in any year of study are welcome to book a free UniTea time.

Individual support

For an opportunity to ask specific, personal questions, the Social Workers of the Wellness Supports team offers one-on-one assistance related to any area of a student's academic or personal life. "We can support a student with whatever they need, from tools for self-improvement through to urgent requests," Ashley says. "Our main focus is to help increase stability in their daily life, and we have the ability to coordinate with other on-campus and off-campus services. We're here to help students navigate any area of their life where they want to make a change or have some stability."

Navigating life during COVID-19

The Wellness Supports Team has some new resources this semester to help all members of the compass community with the transition to campus. "Social connection is an important part of our mental health, and being on campus provides the opportunity for social engagement again," Christine says. "But everyone is going to have different feelings, experiences, and comfort levels."