By Ken Stadey
Emergency health services on university campuses is an issue that is rapidly gaining visibility among the student body. As the LUSU election season is upon us, this topic has come up in discussions with both members and candidates alike. More can always be done with LUSU; it is a platform of opportunity for those who want to collaborate on improved student life. However, information on the services we can access seems out of reach.
On Feb 1, LUSU held its annual elections debate in the Outpost. The event was split to hold campus-specific discussions among the candidates for our Board of Directors. Many pointed and engaging questions were posed to the candidates, but with time constraints on their replies, many candidates were cut off short of a full answer. This could be seen as necessary and benign; time was short, and most interested students will seek out the representatives-to-be with questions before casting their ballot.
As we move into the future, however, I would like to see LUSU bring more focus in its referral to the services already available to students. Did you know that Thunder Bay has a Sexual Abuse hotline tasked with providing advice, 24/7? Maybe you know that the Student Health and Counselling Centre provides free, confidential counselling to registered students trying to cope with issues such as stress or depression. Whether you did know, or you just wanted to, there seemed to be no room in the debate to plug this information.
The Student Health and Counselling Centre provides a variety of medical treatments and consultations, including mental health. In paying the Health Services Support Fee, which you can find in your account records with the university, qualifies you for treatment at the centre. It sometimes seems easy to feel stressed, anxious, sad or lonely on our campus. If you’re in a rut, or come with questions, you are encouraged to stop by the Prettie Residence and visit the centre. First-time visitors are asked to bring their student card, their health card, and their class timetable, and your visit/treatment is bound by a confidentiality policy. Appointments can be made by phone or in person, but not by e-mail.
Residents of Thunder Bay who need to deal with sexual violence should look to Sexual Abuse Centre Thunder Bay for resources. This organization provides advice, support, and information to anyone seeking solutions. The first rule of sexual assault, however, is to direct victims to emergency medical services. It is important to note that a person seeking medical attention in this manner is not obligated to provide information to police. Sexual abuse forensic evidence kits can be frozen, providing victims with time to decide what action to take.
Students who experience harassment and discrimination, sexual violence, or a lack of accommodation for a disability are asked to submit a complaint to the Human Rights Office on the 5th floor of the library. Complaints are processed with anonymity, and students can pursue a variety of processes and outcomes through the office. The staff at the office demonstrates discretion and compassion when they fight for you, and you have the final say whether actions are taken on your behalf.
More apparent to the membership is the food bank operated by the Union. The bank is equipped to provide one package of food per student, per month. Students have recently become aware that a large number of their peers often go hungry. This may not seem like news to some, but not everyone has extensive access to emergency food or cash. This service is a blessing for so many students, and shines as an example of our unity contributing to resiliency and strength. If you or someone you know is not meeting their nutrition requirements, you are welcome to access the food bank. If more resources are needed, an emergency application can be submitted, or other food banks can be accessed. Thunder Bay Health Unit has a comprehensive directory of services for the hungry, available on their website.
I understand that student governance is a wild, challenging frontier, but I would like to see preparation for next year’s debate start early. More time, and engagement from the current Board may be necessary. If we talk about furthering access to services for mental health, we must at least direct our membership to the services that currently exist. Members need more time to assess the knowledge and experience of our candidates at this event; members also need the administrators to provide clarity and factual basis to the questions and answers. The elections debate is among the most widely attended and discussed events that LUSU holds. It would only make perfect sense to set aside time to set the facts straight.
Student Health and Counselling Centre: (807) 343-8361
Sexual Abuse Centre Thunder Bay: (807) 344-4502
Office of Human Rights and Equity: (807) 346-7765
LUSU Food Bank: (807) 343-8850, foodbank@LUSU.ca (email preferred)