Have you ever felt sad, lonely, or stressed? Just like our physical health, our mental health is equally important, even if it’s not something that is always visible.
Regardless of circumstances, knowing there is someone you can talk to regarding mental wellbeing is always a good thing to have. Our Health and Wellness Counsellors Muge and Apek are always willing to lend an ear to students who need it.
We understand talking to someone about mental health may be a daunting task, so we sat down with Muge and Apek to get to know them better and get their thoughts on the importance of mental health.
Originally from Turkey, Muge is a Clinical Counselor with a PhD in Counseling Psychology. With over 25 years of experience working in the field, she enjoys helping students from all walks of life grow and improve.
Outside of work, she is a proud cat parent despite her allergies.
Apekchha, or Apek for short, brings her experience as a former international student to the table. Born in Nepal and partially growing up in the Philippines, Apek chose to make Canada her new home six years ago.
Her experience with being an international student and working with clients ranging from teenagers to seniors gives her a broad perspective and helps her understand where her clients come from.
*Some quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Muge: At Health and Wellness, we mostly offer counselling sessions. We are offer 10 sessions of free counseling to the students but if they need more, we provide the service to them.
Apek: One service that not a lot of people know about that people could benefit from is that we host Conversation Club on Tuesdays between 12:30 or 1:30. It’s essentially just a group of people, who can come together and just have conversations and eat a few snacks—we’re just there to just guide that and just have people talk.
It’s not a therapy session or group therapy or anything like that. It’s just to help people make friends and just have people to talk to because sometimes people can feel really lonely and it’s hard making friends coming to a new country and new college.
Muge: For students, the first interaction with us starts with orientation. During our presentations, they get to know about us who we are and what we do. We emphasize that no information is shared with anyone because some students are concerned that IRCC will learn about this and affect their PR, that kind of thing. This is not true.
Our door is always open and students hesitate to come in sometimes but when they come in, they say they are glad to make this appointment to come and meet us.
Apek: I would see a lot of clients come in nervous like, ‘Who am I gonna speak to?’ But we’re just humans and everything that people say, unless emergency circumstances come up, is all confidential. So just come talk to us!
Apek: I would say a certain level of stigma exists everywhere, here too.
There’s certain topics that you shouldn’t talk about and things you shouldn’t share. Different populations and different backgrounds have their own little stigma or expectations that people feel the need to live by.
I think the important thing is if you need help, it’s ok to ask for help and like I said, we’re not going to tell anyone that you came to therapy—if you want to keep it a secret, that’s ok.
Everyone goes to doctors, personal trainers, and nutritionists. It’s all similar to therapy where you sometimes you just need the tools and sometimes you just need to talk it out.
Sometimes it’s easier speaking to a stranger about your problem than it is to talk about it with a family member or a friend who might have some biases or concerns of their own. It’s more normal than people think it is, I think.
Muge: When clients come here, we appreciate their courage to be here. It’s not easy to talk about yourself, so actually, it is a strength to come here.
It’s a strength to be self aware that there’s something going on. We try to emphasize this aspect.
It’s not a weakness, it’s a strength to come to see a counsellor.
Apek: I think the biggest thing is access to services, especially at this college. There is a lot of access to so many different services like the Writing and Learning Centre, Health and Wellness, Career Advising, Academic Advising—these are all the resources that students have for free and it would be really helpful for them to use it, especially when you’re coming here for the first time.
There are staff here who are willing to meet up with you, have an appointment, just explain things if they want to just learn about it or there’s website blogs and pages for them to learn. Like that would have been helpful if I knew every single service that existed at a university or a college because I didn’t really use it as much to be honest and I should have.
Muge: Actually during my education, we don’t have such services. So yes, there are more opportunities that the students actually should use.
I don’t think they are promoted enough. It should be promoted on a regular basis, like every two months because during course registration, you are too busy to picking up your courses and then before exams, you are too busy. The timing is very important.
Muge: Students should come and meet us at least once. Check the website, what the services that are offered and please use them. We don’t criticize and we’re non judgmental.
Apek: We try to keep it like a safe environment.
Muge: Just drop by for a chat, have a cup of coffee with us and learn more about who we are!