By fall 2019, McGill will have 12 Local Wellness Advisors (LWA) on campus to equip students with health and wellness tips. LWAs are trained clinicians who can connect you with the appropriate resources for your specific needs. They can inform you of other health and wellness programs that are available on campus, and provide you with tools and recourses to help take charge of your mental health.
As such, the Faculty of Arts has named Miss Bianca Brunetti as their LWA. Bianca is McGill Arts graduate, who majored in Psychology and minored in Behavioural Neuroscience and Sociology and completed her Master’s degree in Counselling at the University of Ottawa. Since graduating, she has been working to support students of all ages in educational settings. She spent the past few years working as a High School Guidance Counsellor. Bianca has a love for animals, and in an ideal world, would be practicing as an animal-assisted therapist. She also enjoys cooking and baking as well as physical outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking.
Arts recently interviewed Bianca to discuss her role as the Arts LWA, what the program offers, and how it’s different from other services on campus.
What is your role as the Arts Local Wellness Advisor?
My mandate as the Arts LWA is to work collaboratively with students to promote wellbeing. So often, students wait until they are near or experiencing a crisis before they seek help. Part of my mandate is working with the student body to be proactive in their wellness. This can take many different forms including taking care of their basic needs like connecting with others, eating, sleeping, staying active and learning some new skills through self-help activities or attending group events and one-on-one support.
I am also a link between the Student Wellness Hub and the Faculty of Arts. I work as a liaison between the faculty and Student Services to facilitate communication. I hope to work very closely with students, student groups and faculty members to get a true assessment of what the Faculty of Arts needs and to do my best to meet that need through tailored programming.
How did the LWA program come about?
The role of wellness advisor was created as a part of the Collaborative Care Model adopted by McGill. A new model has been necessary because there has been an exponential increase in the number of students seeking mental health care services across North America. I have read the Tribune articles where students have voiced their distress about lengthy wait times and access to support. Student Services has actually increased the number of counselors by 43% over the last two years, but that has not helped to diminish student wait times for services. Research has also shown that a very large portion of our student body feels isolated. That is why a large part of my role is about trying to help students feel more connected.
The Collaborative Care model to mental health and wellness is about working with students to help them find the right resource, at the right time that best suits their needs. As a LWA, I am an additional access point to services for students. My role is to provide targeted, customized wellness outreach and programming to students where they live, learn and study.
What services do you offer students?
I offer workshops with Mental Health themes such as Skills for Managing Stress and Anxiety and Happiness. I am also able to offer Mental Health First Aid training. I am organizing community conversations where I hope that members of the Faculty of Arts will drop by to have some tea, snacks and have conversations about wellness and share resources and experiences as a group.
I offer individual sessions with students in my office. During these meetings, students will have the opportunity to speak confidentially and we will develop a wellness plan together.
Who is eligible to meet with you?
All students within the Faculty of Arts, graduate students included, are welcome to meet with me individually and/or attend events. Faculty members and staff are also welcome to contact me with questions about wellbeing resources and/or opportunities to collaborate.
Can you explain the process of booking an appointment?
Students can request an appointment by filling out an online form on the virtual hub website or on the Arts OASIS website. Since a large part of my role is also outreach and community building, there will be no wait times to speak with me at events, workshops, and tabling. I plan to have a minimum of one community event a week during the academic year where students can drop in, have a warm drink and have an open dialogue with myself and other students.
Students can find me in my office in Dawson Hall as part of Arts Oasis. My office is located among those of the academic advisors. Students will also be able to find me across campus helping with wellness events and tabling in Leacock.
What are the differences between LWA and counselors?
One difference between my role and counselors is that I do a lot of outreach with students outside of my office and that is specific to Arts students.
I am a licensed mental health professional and a practicing counselor. Similar to counselors at McGill, I conduct an initial assessment, work with the student throughout their time at McGill, provide all forms of intervention I am capable of providing and work with students to develop a collaborative wellness plan based on their needs, readiness, and available resources.
I do not provide psychotherapy for students. That means that I am not the best resource if someone is looking to meet with a therapist on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I can, however, work with students to find a resource that does offer this service if that is what they feel they need.
What is your number one goal as a LWA? The outcome you are hoping for?
My number one goal as an LWA is to build as many connections as possible. I would like to hear from students what they want and need and collaborate with them about what we can accomplish together. I am really hoping to have open communication in the Faculty of Arts about wellness and to work towards reducing mental health stigma campus-wide. I want people to feel supported and feel that they are heard.
Advice to students?
I know it will sound overly simple but remember to care for your basic needs. For example, getting enough sleep is essential to overall health and well-being and will enhance your academic performance. Too often, we all sacrifice taking care of ourselves in the hope of being more productive. Whenever we are not feeling well, bringing our attention to how we are eating, sleeping, connecting with others and exercising is a great place to start.