By Zachary Flynn
Photo By Aaron Wilmot
The NAIT Counselling Centre is dealing with a massive increase in appointments following the spring reading week break.
Demand for counseling services has grown year over year, increasing by approximately 85% each year with spikes in November and March.
Tanya Spencer, Lead of Counselling and Chaplaincy at the centre said they are expecting wait times of about three weeks. Normally, students have to wait less than two weeks to see a counselor.
“In March we’re very much at our capacity,” said Spencer.
Last year, the centre was pushed to their limits as the staff gave up their lunch breaks and worked extended hours to accommodate the increase in students.
Spencer said that there are a few factors to this including reading week and exams.
“I don’t know anybody who comes back from reading break and says, ‘Oh I feel so relaxed and refreshed. I’m ready to take on the world’,” said Spencer. “They say, ‘Oh yeah, I checked out for a while and now I’m realizing I’m just up to my eyeballs in the stuff I was procrastinating before.’”
Spencer said that students often set unrealistic expectations for their reading break. She explained that students often tell themselves they will catch up on assignments or feel more refreshed after the break, but come out disappointed and frustrated when they come back to a stressful semester.
“It’s an interesting phenomenon because people very much crave it heading into [reading week] like ‘I’m exhausted I need a break’,” said Spencer.
She also said that another factor to students’ stress following reading break is the lack of an exam week in many programs at NAIT.
“The most common reaction we get from students is that ‘Oh, now I have a semester of hell instead of just a week of hell,’” said Spencer.
Spencer said when students have a week or two set aside for exams, they can identify and manage their stress more effectively because they know the stress is caused by that one event. She said that now, with projects and exams spread across the semester, students tend to blame themselves for not being able to keep up with schooling rather than attributing their stress to an exam week.
With demand for services continuing to rise each year, NAIT’s Counselling Centre is looking at different routes they might have to take.
“There may come a time — and who knows, it may be this very month — where we have to start saying we’re going to get rid of some of the booked [appointments] and go more peer/walk-in as a way of managing that,” said Spencer. “We’ve never had a time where we’ve had to say, ‘We can only give you 45 minutes’ or ‘We can only give you a half an hour’, but those are some of the options that we might have to consider.”
Spencer said there are many different factors impacting the increase in demand and she doesn’t see this increase slowing down any time soon.