New counsellor, more psychologist hours now at Mt. A’s Wellness Centre

Mental health services are now more accessible on campus following an increase in visits by a psychologist and the addition of a new Wellness Centre staff member.

A psychologist will now be available for student appointments once a week, instead of just once a month. The Wellness Centre has welcomed a new staff member, Randy Hamilton, who has assumed the role of “Student Development Counsellor” and will be available for appointments five days per week. Hamilton joins Catherine Fawcett in his position as a counsellor after a previous counsellor left the Wellness Centre in early September of this year.

Acquiring an appointment with mental health professionals can be a long process for students and the community alike, and the addition of more counselling on services should help address this.

According to the website for the firm of psychologists Emmry, Dawe, Parlee and Associates, “The fee for a one hour session is $150 per hour.  Assessment fees may vary according to the nature of the assessment.”

Despite this, the cost of an appointment with a registered psychologist can vary, and the Argosy’s attempts to contact the firm were unsuccessful.

As it stands, the MASU student insurance coverage can cover $50 for each appointment, or $400 per year, so students receiving psychological help may have to pay out of pocket for these services.

Josh Outerbridge, MASU’s vice president of finance and operations, who is in charge of the administration of their health coverage, did not know how much an appointment would cost, but said, “However I imagine if it is more than $50 we’ll be making adjustments.”

Thomas Williams, an intern working with the Wellness Centre, said, in response to the addition of Hamilton to the Wellness Centre, “One obvious benefit is that it precludes us from having to refer students out of town.”

Williams also said that the act of sending students out of town may be stigmatizing in itself and that adding Randy Hamilton to the counselling team is “So much more than a good PR move. It’s a good move on a human level.”

Hamilton has a background in a broad range of mental health related areas such as time management, substance abuse counselling, and interpersonal relationships. He noted that increasing staff from one to two counsellors on campus will significantly decrease waiting times.

Hamilton said, “With only one counsellor it can be difficult to get a quick appointment, which are important for quick interventions.”

“I am really excited to have the additional services offered on campus,” said Williams. “I think there’s a systemic issue in academia, where the very nature of being in university causes students a lot of stress, which of course exacerbates any other health concern they might have.”

Hamilton also said having one female and one male counsellor provides an important source of choice for students to choose the counsellor whom they feel most comfortable with.

“It is important to be available and aware of services,” said Hamilton. He continued that often students are unaware of potential avenues for help with mental health.

The Wellness Centre has previously made connections with student-led groups such as the Elephant in the Room initiative, and both Hamilton and Williams said that fostering these relationships is important to increase the awareness of services.

Hamilton said, “We have hooked up with the Elephant in the Room before, and the more connections we have, the better.”

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