University of Calgary

Campus initiatives aim to ease new students’ stress

UToday HomeAugust 28, 2013

By Lisa Monforton

Adriana Tulissi, manager of community engagement at the SU Wellness Centre, says it’s important that students know they’re not alone as they face the uncertainties of major changes in their lives. Photo by Riley Brandt Adriana Tulissi, manager of community engagement at the SU Wellness Centre, says it’s important that students know they’re not alone as they face the uncertainties of major changes in their lives. Photo by Riley Brandt Next week, thousands of students will arrive at the University of Calgary and it won’t be long before many of them feel overwhelmed.

Stress is common, but first-year students are especially vulnerable, says Adriana Tulissi, manager of community engagement at the SU Wellness Centre.

“It can be rooted in the transition from high school to university, moving away from home for the first time . . . missing friends,” she says. Time management issues are also prevalent.

It’s important that students don’t feel alone, whether they live in residence or off campus, and that they access services before little problems become big.

Among the SU Wellness Centre services are one-on-one counselling, workshops and peer health outreach. 

New students can learn more during Orientation Week at the Resource Fair on Sept. 3, in the green space at the Taylor Family Digital Library, 2-4 p.m. Information is also available during the Electives Sessions on Sept. 5. New students will get tips from an online survey asking current students, “In my first year I wished that I had known...”

The almost 2,000 students moving into residence Sept. 1 may experience a different kind of stress, says Randy Maus, director of Student Residence.

“For a lot of students, the stress comes from, where do I go, what do I need to get through Orientation Week?” Maus says.

Randy Maus, director of Student Residence, summarizes the most common questions asked by first-years: “Where do I go, what do I need to get through Orientation Week?” Photo by Riley BrandtRandy Maus, director of Student Residence, summarizes the most common questions asked by first-years: “Where do I go, what do I need to get through Orientation Week?” Photo by Riley BrandtTo mitigate problems, the university is set up to help everyone. Services such as the bookstore, UNICARD office and Enrolment Services are open and information about rental insurance or accessing Internet service is available.

“One of things that makes it go smoothly is that we have terrific student leaders in place,” Maus says. “They are really key and critical in getting people oriented on campus … to guide people and give people a sense of community right from the start.”

Student stress is taken seriously.  The university is one of three to receive $3 million from the Alberta government to address mental health and addictions on campus.

That includes hiring more staff, such as counsellors, nurses and a mental health education co-ordinator, Tulissi says.

The SU Wellness Centre recently administered the National College Health Assessment and found that University of Calgary students fall in line with national averages for stress, says Tulissi. Some of the key findings include that during the last 12 months:

  • 90 per cent of students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do;
  • 57.9 per cent  “felt overwhelming anxiety;”
  • 36.7 per cent “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.”
That makes Tulissi’s advice all the more important. “While you can always come to the SU Wellness Centre, when you are in a state of distress, please come when you see the first signs of stress. . . the earlier the better,” she says.

Follow UToday on Twitter.
Check the UToday website for news about events, people and trends at University of Calgary.
Follow what’s happening on campus using our interactive calendar.