by Aparajita Bhandari
November brings with it the start of the holiday season, and winter break and Christmas seem almost close enough to touch. However, November also brings the second set of midterms for many people, as well the dreaded flu season. With finals looming and temperatures dipping, it’s more important than ever to consider one’s health, both physical and mental.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, illness does sometimes strike. When this happens it can be difficult to figure out what to do.
Many students are simply just unaware of what services are available. Worry not, readers, because in this post I will tell you exactly what to do to get back on your feet.
Over the summer the University of Toronto changed their medical service system. The previous Health Services and Counselling and Psychological Services (CAPS) became integrated into one medical service unit called the Health & Wellness Centre. That translates to a slightly different medical experience for students going forward.
Firstly, all services are now accessed through one office located on the second floor of the Koffler Student Services Centre. When you’re feeling sick you should directly make your way here. I also encourage all of you who don’t have a family physician in Toronto to go to the Health & Wellness centre and get an appointment with a physician before you even become ill. It’s important to have continuity in care and regularly seeing the same doctor for routine check-ups helps you prevent sickness and maintain overall health.
The integration of the two previously separate services means that you also will make an appointment for a mental health concern at this same office. All appointments are booked through the same office, which means that your first appointment will be with a family physician and a nurse. Then they will refer you to the appropriate specialized service. These changes to the mental health framework were made in response to student feedback saying that health services would be improved if it could be more integrated to provide more holistic healthcare.
While I do believe that trying to provide a more seamless medical service system is a very good idea, my personal experience with the new Health & Wellness Centre has been mixed. I think that not having a separate mental health service makes it more difficult for some people to get mental health help. Due to the stigma attached to mental health, for some trying to get help can be a difficult feat in itself. Many people who decide to consult professional mental health services want to first just try talking with a professional. Requiring people to go through a medical examination before starting any type of treatment might discourage many who do not feel ready for a more clinical approach to their problem. Also the wait time for getting an appointment for any issue has increased, as everyone first must be bottlenecked through the same initial examination process.
On the other hand, I don’t want my critique of the new system to dissuade any of you from using the Health & Wellness Centre. The core idea behind the new unified centre has a lot of merit. The new system has only been in place for a few months now so it’s understandable that there still are bugs to work out.
It is very important to get help when you need it. We students are overcommitted and overworked but the thing that should be the top priority on all of our to do lists is our health. If you feel like there’s something that’s been off with your body lately, go get it checked out. Don’t just ignore the signs because you never know what could be part of a larger underlying condition. And if you ever feel depressed, anxious or stressed, absolutely don’t hesitate to go get an appointment to talk to someone.
It takes courage to admit that there’s a problem, but the best part of belonging to the University of Toronto community is that you don’t have to handle those problems alone.
How do you guys feel about the Health and Wellness Centre? Do you like the new system more or less? Share your thoughts in the comments below!