AMS, SGPS introduce new mental health service

According to AMS, Queen’s verbally commits to 50 per cent of cost

The AMS has partnered with the SGPS to introduce new counselling service.
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The AMS has partnered with the SGPS to bring a new mental health and counselling service to Queen’s students for the upcoming school year.

The service, called Empower Me, is a 24/7, 365-day platform that provides free access to counselling for university students and eligible spouses and children, and can be accessed through a hotline, in person, or through video counselling.

“The SGPS is beyond excited to be partnering with the AMS and the University with the roll out of the Empower Me program,” SGPS President Jeremy Ambraska wrote in a statement to The Journal. “Mental health continues to be a priority for graduate and professional students at Queen’s and the SGPS remains committed to providing accessible, confidential and reliable mental health resources to graduate and professional students at Queen’s.”

The AMS executive, comprised of President Auston Pierce, Vice-President (Operations) Jessica Dahanayake, and Vice-President (University Affairs) William Greene, has been working on the project with the SGPS since they took office in May.

In an interview with The Journal, Pierce said Empower Me will be implemented “as a supplement to the current counselling services on campus.”

He added the Society’s hope is that by implementing a “new, alternative” counselling service with consistent availability, students will be able to “go seek counselling whenever they need it and can do it from the comfort of their own homes.”

Pierce said the AMS executive met with mental health advocacy groups on campus, including students who have run surveys through the Facebook group “Overheard at Queen’s.”

“A lot of them spoke about barriers to access and having long wait times,” he said. “So that is the inspiration for why we wanted to address this issue.”

Empower Me has been implemented at universities across Canada, notably the University of British Columbia (UBC), whose model Pierce said the Society is “closely following.”

Within a year of Empower Me’s implementation at UBC, the University had seen enough “support, use and value” that they adopted it into their campus healthcare system officially, according to Pierce.

Greene hopes for similar results at Queen’s.

“Generally, our hope is that problems surrounding mental health supports won’t be the problems there are for the class of 2023, 2024 and 2025,” he said. “In no way will Empower Me be able to solve all our campus’ mental health problems, but we hope that with platforms like this, we can continue the conversation.”

The AMS will also receive financial support from the University, which “agreed verbally to contribute 50 per cent,” according to Pierce.

He saida final figure will not be confirmed until student enrolment is complete, but the cost of Empower Me is $4.20 plus tax per student.

“Empower Me is a great addition to our on-campus counselling services offered through Student Wellness Services,” Ann Tierney, Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs, wrote in a statement to The Journal. “We know our students value having options and this will allow additional access to counselling 24/7, as well as throughout the summer months.”

Students who call the Empower Me hotline will be directly connected with a counsellor who has, at minimum, a Master’s degree in social work, psychology, or a related counselling field, as well as five year of experience working at post-secondary clinics.

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