Paula Faragher (left) and Sarah Lefebure are the creators of Flourish, a program designed to help students deal with the pressures of their studies. -Image: Okanagan College

OC pilot project promotes student wellness

Workshops at Okanagan College helps students to combat stress

A new wellness pilot project is underway at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus and has set out to help students thrive in their studies and personal lives by teaching skills and tools to manage and promote positive mental health.

“Flourish is a series of workshops held on campus that model and teach students different ways of managing stress, anxiety and depression so that when they experience those overwhelming feelings they have a well-rounded toolbox of healthy ways to regulate them,” says Sarah Lefebure, Counsellor at Okanagan College and co-creator of Flourish.

The workshop series will offer activities, resources and support to help students combat stress. Additionally, guest speakers will help open up the conversation about mental health and work to break down stigmas of mental illness and the challenges students encounter in daily life.

“This project was developed very organically,” says Paula Faragher, Accessibility Services Coordinator at Okanagan College and co-creator of Flourish. “Sarah and I recognized gaps in services in terms of working with students who were experiencing really high levels of stress and anxiety while going to school.”

The project is based on a model of mental wellbeing that suggests everyone experiences times where they are flourishing, languishing or somewhere in between. Mental health care is not only for those diagnosed with a mental illness – everyone can benefit.

“We always believed that healthy campuses equaled healthy minds but it wasn’t until we saw statistics from a campus-wide mental health survey that Flourish really grew into the project it is,” says Faragher.

Last winter, OC Human Kinetics Professor Wendy Wheeler and her class conducted a mental health survey at the Penticton campus. It was found that in the past 12 months 49 per cent of students felt so depressed it was difficult for them to function, 57 per cent have felt overwhelming anxiety and 74 per cent have felt very sad.

“As a counsellor, our goal is to create and maintain a positive climate for students to succeed, both academically and in their personal lives, and a major part of doing that is promoting positive mental health,” says Lefebure.

Flourish was created and received full support from Okanagan College, which awarded the project with an Innovation Fund grant (the College’s internal grant for innovative new programs and initiatives).

“At Okanagan College, we are committed to expanding awareness of mental health issues and providing resources for those students in need of wellness supports,” says Charlotte Kushner Vice President, Students. “We are delighted to support Flourish.”

“The link between student wellness and academic success is well documented and the most recent studies suggest there is a need to improve mental health supports for post-secondary students who are facing an increasingly complex world,” says Kushner. “Students and student success are at the heart of everything we do at Okanagan College and we are committed to expanding awareness of mental health and providing resources for those students in need of wellness supports.”

The first workshop took place this week and looked into the physical, mental and emotional effects stress has on the body. The drop-in workshops are held bi-weekly on Mondays from 2:30-3:45 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus in the Community Hall (PC 113). Flourish is open to all students and is free to attend. For more information on Flourish including workshop dates, please visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/flourish.

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