Queen’s Student Wellness Services introduces stepped model of care

Students turn to SWS for mental and physical support

Student Wellness Services is releasing their first report since the pandemic later this summer.
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Queen’s Student Wellness Services (SWS) is rolling out a stepped care model to provide students with physical and mental wellness services.

Stepped care allows a wellness professional to determine a student’s needed degree of support during the initial appointment, which then allows access to appropriate services. It introduces a series of steps into the care process based on a student’s needs.

“Sometimes students come to [SWS] and ask for a psychiatry appointment, but with a few questions we discover their issue is better suited to a mental health counselling appointment,” Cynthia Gibney, executive director of SWS, said in a statement to The Journal

The hope is that stepped care will improve SWS’s efficiency by reducing the time it takes students to receive the care they’re seeking.

“This helps the student get to the most appropriate resource quickly and better addresses the issue with the right resource,” Gibney said.

In 2019, SWS implemented same-day counselling appointments to increase the number of students who could connect with a wellness professional before being directed to other wellness supports. Often, the same-day appointment is the first step of SWS’s care.

SWS has not released an annual report since 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. These reports typically highlight SWS’s programming over a given year, as well as statistics around student use of clinical and counselling supports, and an analysis of accessibility services.

Gibney said the results from three student health and wellbeing surveys run during the past semester will be shared with the campus community in the coming months.

Marija Padjen, Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health Ontario director, called the earlier steps of stepped care “lighter touch supports.”

“Some of them are virtual, some of them are [appointments],” she said in an interview with The Journal.

Queen’s subscribes to virtual services such as Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), an interactive platform providing students with information to improve their mental wellness, and Empower Me, a telephone service that connects students with counsellors.

The later steps of the model are more complex and designated for more “severe” cases, including supports like individual therapy and acute care.

SWS provides opportunities for students looking for higher-touch mental health support to meet with specialized counsellors, mental health therapists and psychiatrists. 

“Mental health is a continuum, and intervention is a continuum as well,” Padjen said.

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