Stressed students have a new service to turn to for help

Robert Gould offers stress dots to staff and students in the Holland College cafeteria at lunchtime. The dots change colour according to their stress level. A phone number for SAP is located behind Gould. Gwydion Morris photo.
Robert Gould offers stress dots to staff and students in the Holland College cafeteria at lunchtime. The dots change colour according to their stress level. A phone number for SAP is located behind Gould. Gwydion Morris photo.
By GWYDION MORRIS
Jan. 16, 2014

A new counseling service is now available to Holland College students. Be it anything from academic trouble to a run in with the law, these counselors are there to help.
Student Assistance Program, or SAP, was at the school Jan. 15 for a noontime presentation on its services. Robert Gould, account manager for Aspiria, the parent company for SAP, detailed the services provided in a slideshow.
Confidentiality was the name of the game as Gould stressed how a student’s privacy was protected at all costs. The only time that privacy is breached is if a student talks about suicide or threatens to kill someone, or if a court subpoena forces them, he said.
“SAP is a safe and confidential place to go to resolve issues.”
No issue is too big or small for SAP to help with. SAP helps students with issues everyone encounters in life, from abuse, to drugs, to financial stress or even stress from schoolwork, he said.
“You don’t need to be a crazy person to experience these.”
The counselors must have a masters degree in either social work or psychology with five-years of post-grad experience to be considered for the job.
Counselors are available anytime, said Gould, with 10 counselors in the Maritimes. A student may deal with an administrator, but if the issue is an emergency, a counselor will be contacted immediately.
“We have a network of counselors across Canada.”
Face-to-face, over the phone or the new e-counseling over the web are ways help is available to students, although face-to-face is the best way to solve an issue, he said.
“Face-to-face is the way to go.”
After Christmas is often the busiest time for SAP, said Gould. Students see how much they’ve spent when their credit card statements come in and pile that stress on top of everything else.
“The reality starts to hit home.”
But Gould wants students to know this isn’t the end of the world. The financial help offered by SAP teaches financial skills for long-term financial responsibility. The student still must pay their Christmas debt.
Gould recalled how he used to smoke a pack of unfiltered Camel cigarettes a day during his time in the military to prove his toughness is spite of his small stature. He quit and encouraged others to do the same using SAP’s Butt Out program, a four-to-eight week program focusing on the triggers and habits of smokers.
“Just thinking about it makes me want to cough up a lung.”
Gregory Gairns is the manager of the student union at the college. Aspiria contacted him over the summer. The presentation was set up to show staff and students what SAP has to offer. This is the first year SAP has had a presence at the college, he said.
“Any issues the students can have, they can help.”
The counselors at Holland College are always there to help students, but they can sometimes be overwhelmed by students, that’s when SAP comes in as a last resort, Gairns said
“We’re hoping it’s not needed.”
Gairns has noticed a steady increase in the number of students the college’s counselors had to deal with over the last few years, so SAP came along at the right time.
“Mental illness is on the rise with students in colleges.”
Breann Gillis, a Human Services student at the college, has seen students get stressed about their workload.
“If you miss one day, you miss so much.”
SAP is a great program to offer, she said.
Because students are paying so much for school, the stress is amplified. The heavy workload they sometimes receive in class seems monumental, she said.
“So many students experience stress from the money part.”

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