Counselling and Development helps students with difficulties

by An Dieu Pham

Suicide prevention experts say that eight out of 10 suicide cases are men. That's why the 10th annual Suicide Prevention Week in Quebec focused on men aged 20 to 40 for the second year in a row. The week, which ran in mid-February this year, is organized by the Association Quˇbˇcoise de Suicidologie.

"Men, in general, are more action-oriented and less willing to seek help than women are," said Mary Scott, a psychological counsellor at Concordia's Counselling and Development. This could explain why they are more likely to go through with a suicide attempt. Most male students "would be willing to come in and have someone help them write their CV, but not to discuss some deeper or more personal problem."

Scott said that while there are no specific suicide statistics on Concordia students, she is always on the lookout for signs of suicidal intentions when students come to see her. She begins by asking them how they are sleeping and eating, what their concentration is like, and depending on those responses, if they've ever considered hurting themselves.

Students usually seek counselling for personal relationship problems, anxiety, depression, traumas, eating disorders, sexual orientation issues and self-esteem problems, but the serious cases where there is a threat to others or to oneself are rare. "There is maybe one case a month -- less than one per cent of students who come in -- where a student expresses a suicidal intention," Scott said.

Holidays and end-of-semester periods are the most stressful times for students. Scott said that feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can push someone to commit a self-destructive act. "It's not that they want to die; it's that they feel they can't go on living with their problems."

She added that family members and friends can look for the following warning signs: depression, isolation, loss of appetite or overeating, loss of sleep, and loss of zest. She pointed out that while it's important to refer someone with these signs to a counsellor, nurse, physician, cleric or psychologist, it's also crucial, as a friend or a family member, "to show the person that you care."

Counselling and Development has counsellors and psychologists on staff and encourages students to drop by and sort out their problems, Scott said. Students don't have to pay for the sessions -- a part of their student fees serves to maintain these support services.

Besides providing support for personal problems, Counselling and Development offers a variety of other services, including student learning services, career and placement, vocational exploration, and educational counselling. A number of workshops are also held for students who wish to improve specific aspects of their personal or academic lives. Every year, more than 8,000 students drop by the offices for either quick advice or longer appointments. Scott said there is a student success centre to help reduce the disorientation that most first-year students experience.

Counselling and Development is located at H-440 at the Sir George Williams Campus, and WC-101 (2490 West Broadway) at Loyola.

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