Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental health challenges affect people of all ages, and income, educational and occupational levels. Western International advisors, Western's health and well-being team, and other staff and faculty are here for you regardless of the size of your problem. Make sure you reach out when you run into issues as they are able to provide support and guidance well before you face serious academic challenges, or mental or physical difficulties that severely impact your health and well-being.

Mental health is described as, “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community.”  It involves the ability to balance the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of life. Mental wellness means being able to enjoy life and effectively handle day-to-day challenges. ( Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)

Mental health is very important to overall well-being. It is important to take care of all of these parts of your life for success in school and your career:

  1. Emotional Wellness  – Taking care of your mind 
  2. Physical Wellness  – Taking care of your body 
  3. Academic and Career Wellness  – Taking care of your future goals
  4. Social and Cultural Wellness  – Taking care of your relationships and society
  5. Spiritual Wellness  – Taking care of your values and beliefs
  6. Financial Wellness  – Taking care of your finances
  7. Environmental Wellness  – Taking care of what’s around you

All of these components are crucial to your success at Western but if you are struggling it is important to talk to a professional for support. When someone feels unwell they go to the doctor for help, and it is just as important to reach out to a psychologist or therapist for support when you are struggling with your mental health. 

About Counselling

Going for counselling with a professional may be unusual where you come from. However, Canadian students and previous international students who have sought counselling have described it as a very useful and positive experience. Counselling is another way to improve your personal and academic life.

Below you will find some common topics that can be discussed during a typical counselling appointment. If you are struggling with any of these issues or other problems and would like to speak with a counsellor, please book an appointment with Health & Wellness. You can request to have an initial appointment with a counsellor to discuss your concerns and the counselling options available. 

If you are not sure where to start and just need someone to listen or refer you to the right resources, our international advising team is also here to support you. 

Below are some commonly asked questions about counselling. Click on the questions to see the responses (answers expand).

What is counselling?

Counselling is essentially a conversation between the individual and a counsellor. A counsellor is a trained professional who genuinely cares about students’ well-being. The counsellor will listen carefully to your concerns or worries and will help you to explore and identify ways to cope and improve your situation (e.g., personal or emotional challenges, family or relationship problems, etc.) The counsellor could also offer further resources that address your concerns.

Counselling provides a safe and confidential setting to address the concerns and issues that cause distress.  Students come to counselling with a wide range of issues such as:

  • Stress
  • Culture Shock
  • Adjusting to Canada or university life
  • Motivation
  • Anxiety
  • Sadness
  • Family or relationship difficulties
  • Self-esteem and confidence concerns
  • Harassment or abuse
  • Crisis situations

Who seeks counselling?

People of all ages and backgrounds, at different stages in their lives, seek counselling.

Do students use counselling services often?

Yes, the counsellors see many students on a daily basis and appointments have to be made in advance and can even be booked for the same day in the event of a crisis.

Why should I seek counselling?

Many students are surprised at how helpful counselling can be. Counselling helps students:

  • Learn strategies to cope with challenges (e.g., stress, anxiety, homesickness, etc.)
  • Deal with stress, grief, trauma or other life stressors
  • Understand problems, identify strategies, and strengthen problem-solving skills
  • Improve their academic performance
  • Reduce feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Regain a sense of focus and control
  • Discover personal strengths
  • Succeed at university

It is not uncommon for international students to experience personal or emotional difficulties as they adjust to Canadian culture and the university lifestyle. They may experience culture shock because of the different language, customs, and routines to which they will have to adapt. Culture shock may involve feelings of disorientation, anxiety, loneliness, stress, homesickness, or anger and frustration. When a student or someone they know is experiencing these feelings, it might be useful to seek out a counsellor for help.

How do I book an appointment?

You can book an individual counselling appointment with a Counsellor by calling 519-661-3030.

Are the services available in other languages?

No, but the counsellors are trained in cross-cultural sensitivity and are experienced in working with diverse populations. There may be occasions when some counsellors may be able to speak in another language. If necessary, interpretation services can be arranged.

Mental Health True and False

Seeking Counselling services means I have a mental illness. TRUE OR FALSE?


Going to counselling does not necessarily mean that one has a mental illness. People seek counselling for a wide range of issues and concerns including: problems with adjusting to a new culture or environment, feelings of distress about school, family or personal relationships, situational crises, feelings of depression or anxiety, etc.

Mental illnesses are rare. TRUE OR FALSE?


Mental illnesses can affect almost anyone at any stage of life. In Canada, approximately 20% of young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 have personally experienced mental illness. The remaining 80% have likely been indirectly affected through family, friends and colleagues. By the age of 40, 50% of Canadians have or have had a mental illness.

People should feel ashamed about being diagnosed with a mental illness. TRUE OR FALSE?


There is nothing to be ashamed about. Although there can be fear and stigma surrounding mental illnesses, it is important to remember that this fear and stigma often stems from misinformation. People sometimes make assumptions and judgements about others based on what they think they know, rather than on what is actually true. Stigma occurs when one feels ashamed, disgraced, or rejected, and often accompanies situations where people feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. It is important to erase the stigma that surrounds mental illnesses so that more people will gain the confidence they need to seek help.

People with mental illnesses will not get better. TRUE OR FALSE?


People diagnosed with mental illnesses can still lead very productive and fulfilling lives with the help of treatment, counselling services, or community support groups. Although some mental illnesses are more debilitating than others, they can all be effectively managed. Professionals such as psychiatrists and psychologists can help people manage and thrive with their mental illness.

People with mental illnesses are violent and unpredictable. TRUE OR FALSE?


The vast majority of people with mental health conditions are no more violent than anyone else. Instead, people with mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of crime. You probably know someone with a mental illness and don’t even realize it.

People with mental illnesses lack intelligence. TRUE OR FALSE?


Many people diagnosed with a mental illness are brilliant, creative, and productive people. However, some people with mental illnesses have difficulty remembering facts, interacting with other people, or experience fluctuations in thinking, mood, and behaviour. Overall, people with mental illnesses have varied intellectual functioning, just like the general population.

Mental illnesses are a consequence of a weakness in character. TRUE OR FALSE?


Mental illness is not a result of personal weakness. Instead, mental illnesses are caused by a combination of biological (e.g., family history of mental illness), psychological (e.g., severe and prolonged stress or abuse), environmental (e.g., birth trauma or head injury), or social (e.g., loss of loved one or unemployment) factors.

Treatments for mental illnesses are ineffective. TRUE OR FALSE?


The road to recovery involves many factors including the type of mental illness, the specific needs of the individual, self-efficacy, type of treatment intervention, amount of support, and more. Research suggests that most people with mental illness get better and many recover completely.

As a friend, you can’t do anything for a person with mental health difficulties. TRUE OR FALSE?


You can do a lot, starting with how you act and speak. Try to create an environment that builds on people’s strengths and promotes understanding. If you notice that someone you care about is struggling with a mental health issue, you can be supportive, listen non-judgementally, and encourage them to seek support from friends, family members, and professionals (i.e., doctors, counsellors, help lines). If the person is open to getting help, connect them with resources on- or off-campus that can help.

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