New director of Student Wellness Services talks plans for future

Jennifer Dods to tackle mental health crisis on campus

Jennifer Dods, the new Executive Director of Student Wellness Services.
Supplied by Queen's Communications

Jennifer Dods was appointed the new Executive Director of Student Wellness Services (SWS) this spring, following the retirement of long-time director Mike Condra last summer.

At the time she was hired, a study published by the Ontario University and College Health Association (OUCHA) surveyed 25,000 university and college students in the province. The findings were indicative of a mental health crisis. Dods is hoping to tackle this systemic issue in the coming year.

“It has been a very busy start to the year across all the services,” Dods told The Journal via email. SWS provides health, counseling, and accessibility services to members of the Queen’s community.

“Other universities across the province have also experienced this,” she stated, in regards to the busy start. “At this point our priority is to ensure that we are seeing as many students as we can.”

According to Dods, SWS has combatted the high demand for services by extending hours, adding more appointment times, and hiring more physicians, nurses, counsellors, and accessibility advisors.

“SWS has more doctors and more counsellors this year than ever before,” she said.

Dods added that SWS is also looking into alternative ways of providing students with mental health support, such as group counselling, drop-in services and online supports.

Looking to students on campus, she encouraged them to prioritize self-care, though she acknowledged this can be difficult given student workloads and pressures.

“Health and learning are intertwined and taking time to do the things that keep you healthy will, in the end, lead to greater overall success and well-being in all areas,” she told The Journal.

“It can be little things — a phone call to family, making time to watch a movie or read a book, going for coffee with a friend, going for a run,” she wrote.

“Taking breaks from assignments and studying to give your mind a rest and to do something relaxing can increase productivity when you come back to a task.”

Going forward, Dods hopes to assess the needs and strengths of all Queen’s students related to health and wellness, as to best address any existing gaps in support.

“We have a feedback box on our website and welcome student input about what they particularly liked about their experience at Wellness Services and what we could improve,” she said.

Dods hopes that SWS can look to other universities for inspiration on what services to provide, and to continue to build strong partnerships both on and off campus.

“The need for more mental health care is a systemic need,” Dods said. “Waits for funded mental health care in community settings are often months long, for specialists it can be up to a year.”

In comparison, she wrote, the wait times at SWS are about two weeks during the busy season, with appointments available within 24 hours for students in crisis or with an urgent need.

The SWS is located in the LaSalle building, and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday.

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