Engineering Society wellness centre shuttered

President, employees elaborate on end to 2016 pilot program

The Engineering Wellness Centre was located in Jackson Hall, room 208.

The Engineering Wellness Centre closed permanently on Oct. 9 after almost four years of operation due to a lack of funding and support staff.

Located in Jackson Hall, the Centre was the result of a 2016 pilot program that aimed to promote mental wellness for engineering students. It closed after a decision to reallocate the service’s resources into other programs.

“After careful assessment, it has been determined that the required resources could be better utilized, and support a broader range of engineering students, through other support services and channels,” a statement posted to the Centre’s Facebook page said.

The statement referenced embedded counsellors in the engineering faculty and Student Wellness Services as alternative support options for engineering students.

“The Engineering Society is disappointed to see the loss of a great mental wellness resource on campus,” Delaney Benoit, Engineering Society president, wrote in a statement to The Journal. “Options for re-establishment of the centre or for an alternative resource for students is currently under investigation by the Engineering Society Director of Social Issues.”

Rebecca Bonham-Carter was one of the Centre’s assistant managers from the 2018-19 year. Aside from assisting the head manager in supporting staff, Bonham-Carter was responsible for event planning.

In an interview with The Journal, Bonham-Carter said the Faculty of Engineering wanted to take back the room the Centre was operating out of for office space.

“That was one thing, just trying to find a space on campus, and that’s still really a struggle for wellness support centres,” she said.

Aside from the Centre’s space, Bonham-Carter said another reason it closed was because there wasn’t a specific supervision position within the faculty to oversee the service. While the Centre received support from faculty employees, like Karen Walker, an office staff member in the area of financial assistance, Bonham-Carter said it was a “real push” to ask them to give the time they were giving.

“It was a really hard thing to have a mental health support service underneath just the faculty of engineering when there weren’t really people in the faculty whose job it was to support us,” she said. “We were very lucky with the support we did get.”

Bonham-Carter said funding also played a role in the Centre’s closure. According to her, there’s a certain amount of money set aside in the faculty for mental health and wellness support services. 

“Any funding they feel like is not being used to its fullest, they’re going to reallocate in a certain way,” she said.

Bonham-Carter said a service like the Centre could be revamped in the future if structured differently. For example, she said if the faculty hired more embedded counsellors, there would be more faculty members available to support the Centre.

“The piece that would be nice to preserve going forward is giving people spaces where they feel they can talk about their mental health with people who are going to really lift them to a place where they don’t have to worry about stigma.”

Pointing to the Peer Support Centre, Bonham-Carter said there are still options available to engineering students seeking support. 

Juliana Brown (Sci ’21), a former volunteer at the Engineering Wellness Centre, described its closure as a big loss for mental health support resources in an interview with The Journal.

“The community isn’t really enough to support students going through mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety,” she said. “It’s not an issue that you should be resolving between periods.”

Brown worked at the Engineering Wellness Centre during her second and third years. She said since the service was available all weekend, it also compensated for the lack of available counselling appointment on campus.

“It was a really great place to find help right away,” she said. “Students were able to talk to people who can relate to issues brought up like academic stress. The faculty needs to compensate for the lack of the service.”

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