Over the past school year, both Brantford and Waterloo campuses have been in hot water over their Wellness Centres. Though it appears there have been continuing issues for many years, multiple complaints came to light on #BellLetsTalk day through social media. Since then, both campuses Deans of Students have made statements promising to listen to students and improve both Wellness Centres.
The problem with this is that many students have suffered already. The Sputnik spoke to a student about their experiences using the Wellness Centre in Brantford. Their name has been changed to protect their privacy.
Lee, a fourth year student said they have been attending the Wellness Centre all four years of university. They have utilized the Wellness Centre for a range of issues, including anything from a simple cold to mental health check ins. The Wellness Centre has been Lee’s main source of healthcare.
When asked about their experience using the Wellness Centre, Lee said, “Typically everyone at the Wellness Centre is very nice. There’s a couple of nurses that are judgemental when it comes to lifestyle choices that a lot of university students are making at this time. There’s definitely that generational gap.”
Lee also discussed the issue of getting an appointment at the Wellness Centre explaining, “As far as counselling goes, scheduling is really difficult because they don’t employ as many counsellors as probably are needed to suit the size of the school. You could wait a full week to two weeks for an appointment, and you can go two weeks without seeing your counsellor.”
Lee added, “They do try their best to schedule where they need to but it’s still a pretty long wait. They usually try to outsource you, to like St. Leonards or something.”
Many students including Lee, are prescribed medicine through doctors at the Wellness Centre. Lee briefly discussed their prescriptions saying, “There’s a tendency to overmedicate. I’m currently on a medication that is exceeding the daily recommended amount per dosage, and conflicts with another medication that the Wellness Centre also put me on.”
However the biggest issue Lee has personally had with the Wellness Centre is confidentiality. To many students this is incredibly important, but the interpretation of the word by students and the Wellness Centre doesn’t seem to line up.
Lee explained the issue by saying, “Confidentiality was an issue that was brought up earlier in the year in regard to the information sharing system that the Wellness Centre uses. So I had sensitive information shared without my consent. The information that was released was in relation to an assault, and then it just got spread across the Wellness Centre. It was put in my chart without my knowledge, because of the information sharing that happens. They don’t tell students about obviously, theres no document that says that.”
Lee the continued by explaining their personal experience, “I had disclosed an incident, an assault, in a counselling session on a Wednesday, and then had gone into the Wellness Centre for a completely unrelated issue the following Thursday. Before my actual appointment with the doctor, I was brought into a separate room by a quote on quote mental health nurse who began asking me questions about the specific incident that I discussed-which I thought was in confidence-to the counsellor the day before.”
Lee continued, “She also knew a bunch of random things about my family, so like my younger siblings name, my relationship with my parents, and I had never met this lady before. There was an automatic loss of trust, I haven’t really been back to the Wellness Centre for counselling after that.”
This incident occurred this semester.
After the incident, Lee went to speak to their counsellor about what happened. Lee explained, “She was very upset and she didn’t realize that the Wellness Centre didn’t make you sign any sort of disclosure or notice that your information could be shared, so she actually pushed the Wellness Centre to do a review of confidentiality. Now they have signs and booklets all around the Wellness Centre explaining more about their information system and their confidentiality system which is great, but is something that probably should have been done way before.”
As a follow up to this, The Sputnik went to the Wellness Centre to look for this information. At the time there was one sheet, with only one copy available that explains their privacy statement. Their statement includes, “Share information with other Wellness Centre providers involved in your circle of care.”
In repose to incidents like this, and the many others, a group of students made a twitter page in January under the name Concerned For Hawks. They explained, “Launching this platform was motivated by growing concerns within social circles and on social media about a sense of lack of privacy at the Wellness Centre, and as a reaction to the kinds of feelings students have had after seeking care at the Wellness Centre, particularly in Brantford.” The page launched in January of this year.
The group explained, “We’re a platform for the Wilfrid Laurier University community to discuss and highlight their ideas about what an ideal Wellness Centre could be. We advocate for safe, confidential, inclusive, and accessible-physical, mental and reproductive healthcare for students at WLU.”
As of right now, Dean of Students Adam Lawrence has emailed out a confidential form to get student feedback about the Wellness Centre. This is a great first step, but what is most important is the change that will actually come from the forms. It’s important that students continue to pressure faculty for change.