Roger Wilson, Director of Health and Wellness resources at UBCO, answered my questions about well-being resources on campus. This interview aims to draw attention to the importance of mental health.

Roger Wilson, Director of Health and Wellness - Photo by Andrea Marie Tan
Roger Wilson, Director of Health and Wellness - Photo by Andrea Marie Tan

Q: Last year you spoke about counselling resources provided by the community. For example, that “the UBC Okanagan Interprofessional Clinic was testing a pilot program on how to manage anxiety and stress”. Are there any new programs that are available this year?

A: The Interprofessional group. It’s through the Department of Psychology. They are running a walk-in clinic, one day per week, and I understand that’s expanded to two days per week, and they provide individual therapy to the campus community, to students and also to the larger community in Kelowna. I understand they are very busy, but also very successful in attracting clients. And the other partner that we have an informal relationship with is Third space counselling, and they have come to the campus at the request of the Student Union. So, they also offer counseling to students. So, I’d say those are the three main counseling resources on campus: Health and Wellness, Third space and the Interprofessional clinic.

Q: What would you recommend students who feel overwhelmed with assignments, yet feel that if they seek counselling help, they might not have enough time for studying?

A: I think it’s all about balancing your workload. The main reason students come to see us is that their work-life balance doesn’t work. So they are not exercising, they are not going to the gym, they are not sleeping well, they may not be eating well, and when some of these things don’t work, then we start feeling stressed, overwhelmed. We’re trying to keep up with our academics, but we are not, and then we think we should go for counseling whereas really sometimes we need to just do the basics first and see if things slow down.

Q: What are the main mental health theories that are utilized in counseling? 

A: Well, we have 7 different counselors. Each has their own individual background. So, it depends on which counselor you are talking to. We have three nurses that offer services – they offer a nursing perspective and biopsychosocial approach which draws on various theories and practices. We offer brief and short-term therapies, using different theories: cognitive behavioral, some aspects of somatic theories, some aspects of interpersonal therapy and sometimes art therapy. I’d say those are the main approaches for counselling plus the nursing biopsychosocial model.

Q: Do you have anything to tell the students?

A: I think health is like money. We have to guard it very carefully. We have to watch our health, and we have to watch our money. And I think if we were running out of money – that’s one thing. There are things we can do to replenish our money. We want to do things to prevent us from running out of money. So, same with health. We want to do things that are going to prevent us from getting sick or from getting depressed or exhausted. I encourage students to exercise, eat healthy, drink lots of water, reduce substances, make responsible choices, talk with friends and family, and get lots of sleep. Sleep is probably one of the most important things because it helps us incorporate our learning and helps us retain what we’ve learned in class that day.