Adjusting to life at university comes with its own challenges for students. Throw a pandemic into the mix, which brings to a halt many of the rituals associated with post-secondary life, including living on campus and attending classes with peers, and the need for support becomes paramount.
A $40,000 grant from the Niagara Community Foundation’s David S. Howes Fund last fall ensured students at Brock University had access to vital mental health resources 24/7, via a year-long, university-wide subscription to the My Student Support Program App.
The David S. Howes Fund Grants Program provides funding that supports post-secondary, facilities, research, health-care services, education, and humanitarian issues.
The app, which launched at Brock in December, offers students real-time confidential counselling support over the phone or text in five languages, whenever and wherever they need it. They can also access topical articles, podcasts, videos, and infographics to help combat the isolation and loneliness many report feeling.
In addition, the app connects students to a virtual fitness program called LIFT. But mental health challenges aren’t all the pandemic has thrust upon students. Some are also dealing with food security issues exacerbated by precarious employment.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing we wanted to ensure was we continued to support students and focused on ways we could help them,” said Sonia Dupte, Brock’s director of development and stewardship. “With face-to-face drop-ins (with counsellors on campus) not being feasible, this was another way we could support students.” It’s also in keeping with Brock’s consistent first-place ranking in Macleans Magazine for mental health support for students, Dupte noted.
“Students feel like they’re doing everything by themselves. COVID-19 has been such a beast and opened a Pandora’s box,” she said. “In the David S. Howes Fund through the Niagara Community Foundation, we’ve found great partners to help fulfill this need for support for our students.”