Second year art and design student Janae Gartly regularly visits The Well, but she never leaves with water.
She does, however, leave feeling relaxed and fulfilled.
“Living on campus, life is very fast-paced and people-filled. I was struggling to find a space where I could not only relax and clear my mind, but also rest and recharge. The Well has become the oasis of Trinity Western for escaping the busyness of student life and community living,” Gartly said.
The Well at Trinity Western University is a different kind of wellness centre.
It is a self-directed, non-tech quiet space for students to use as it’s meaningful to them.
No computers, phones, or tablets can be used in The Well.
Instead, the space provides a homework-free zone with massage chairs, adult colouring books, fidget toys, phototherapy light (SAD) lamps, origami paper, and other creative supplies, and tea.
It is a space for students to relax the body and re-centre their emotions.
It provides a dedicated space to clear their mind of stresses and re-charge their spirit.
“Having struggled with stress and anxiety myself and knowing many friends and family members who have also struggled with this, I value the initiative that The Well has made to not only bring to the surface the reality of metal health struggles, but also provide an accessible, welcoming, and judgement-free space for students to seek help and gain the resources they need to live a healthy life,” Gartly said.
“The Well is more than just a space to get a massage every now and then, The Well is a symbol of support for students. It shows that Trinity cares about its students, and cares for their needs,” she added.
Between 2015 and 2017, the Wellness Centre saw a 35-per-cent increase in the number of students submitting intake forms requesting counselling services.
This figure speaks to a trend seen at Canadian universities today and the need for self-directed spaces like The Well.
TWU opened The Well in November 2017 to complement the interdisciplinary services of physicians, registered nurses, and counsellors at The Wellness Centre on campus.
In its first four months of operation, there were more than 1,000 student visits to The Well.
“We wanted to create The Well as a quiet space for students to practise mindfulness, as well as, provide them with tools and skills to build resilience by learning to observe and regulate their emotions”, said Kurt Lundberg, the registered clinical counsellor and director of The Wellness Centre at TWU.
Awareness of mental health issues has skyrocketed, and universities are facing it head on.
Studies show mental health diagnoses are most prevalent among adults age 18 to 25 years old, the years students typically attend university. Universities, including TWU, are seeing higher numbers of students come to university with a pre-existing mental health diagnosis.
About 42.2 per cent of university students feel stress has impacted their academic performance and 64.5 per cent of university students report feeling overwhelmed by anxiety in the past 12 months, according to a report on Canadian student health (2016).
“There are really no other places on campus where students can go to be quiet and mindful, and there is definitely nowhere students can go to be free of the bustle of homework and university stress,” Lundberg said.
Designed to complement other student services, and inspired by pioneering efforts elsewhere, The Well is proving so successful others are beginning to look at this model.
Additional Canadian universities and a college in Singapore are already in touch about The Well and looking to follow in the footsteps of TWU.
In addition to offering a self-directed space, The Well has also experimented with holding workshops on mental health topics, bringing in therapy dogs for students, and offering massages.
Coming in September 2018, The Well has hired five student leaders as Well assistants, who will host the space and plan mental health focused events (e.g., Mental health movie nights or panels).
The university hopes to see The Well increasingly become student driven in terms of operations and programming, to provide student leaders (such as nursing or psychology students) with opportunities to participate in promoting mental health and well-being on campus.
Although it is not a clinical placement, it will provide them with a chance to impact their peers. The Well assistants will be supported by Ryan Schutt, The Well’s mental health coordinator.
“So many students go through life so stressed and anxious, and without relief or a space to clear their minds,” Gartly said.
“The Well is such a beautiful initiative to provide students with a free service aimed completely at caring for their mental health and well-being. I personally will be volunteering with The Well in the coming academic year, and support them in any way that I can,” she concluded.
Questions & Answers
Janae Gartly shares her thoughts on TWU’s The Well.
Q: What made you decide to try out visiting The Well?
A. Living on campus, life is very fast-paced and people-filled. I was struggling to find a space where I could not only relax and clear my mind, but also rest and recharge. There are really no other places on campus where students can go to be quiet and mindful, and there is definitely no where students can go to be free of the bustle of homework and university stress. The Well has been the oasis of Trinity for escaping the busyness of student life and community living.
Q: How many times have you visited The Well? What do you like to do there?
A. Honestly, I have been to the Well too many times to count. I often go at least once a week, even if its only for a quick SAD light session or a massage. When I go to the well, my typical visit looks like: sitting with a book and tea near the SAD light; getting a massage; colouring or origami; and sitting near the large windows with a book and some tea.
Q: Please tell me why you like visiting The Well?
A. Visiting the Well is my place to re-charge. I love being able to go to a space where my mental health is being actively addressed and cared for, and having the resources available to me to be mindful and intentional about my mental health. Having a space on campus for students to be mindful and peaceful is so integral to health and happiness, and I enjoy visiting the Well because of its facilitation of these. Being a student living on campus can be socially exhausting, and there are few places where it is encouraged to be introspective and still, and where students are encouraged to let go of technology and school work.
Q: What would you say most students on campus feel about The Well?
A. Students on campus who have visited the Well feel that it is an integral part of campus life. Whether they are visiting for the massages or other services, many students have expressed to me on multiple occasions that the Well is an Oasis on campus. It recharges and rejuvenates the students, and is an invaluable resource. Students have told me that they see the Well as a space to clear their mind, and that the Well is one of the only spaces on campus where they feel they are able to let go of the stress and busyness of school and community life.
Q: Do you feel differently when you leave a visit to The Well from how you felt when you arrived? Could you tell me a little about this?
A: A visit to the Well always leaves me rejuvenated and relaxed. The Well is a space to re-center the mind and spirit, and gives me the opportunity to clear my mind and re-charge my spirit. The Well has never failed to be an energizing, integral part of my week, and leaves me with a calm, restored, and re-centered mindset for the rest of my day. Not to mention, the massage chairs are a life-saver for a sore back. As an art student, I find my back is often sore from long days and nights in the studio bent over my work. The Well’s massage chairs offer quality relief for exhausted bodies, and paired with the calming space for the mind, the Well is a one-stop self-care center.
Q: Are there further thoughts and reflections on The Well that you would like to share?
A. Honestly, I just really genuinely love and support the Well. I think that it is an amazing opportunity to serve the community in a way that is so needed in student life. So many students go through life so stressed and anxious, and without relief or a space to clear their minds. The Well is such a beautiful initiative to provide students with a free service aimed completely at caring for their mental health and well-being. I personally will be volunteering with the Well in the coming academic year, and support them in any way that I can.
Having a space like the Well on campus is an extremely valuable resource for the students and staff, and beautifully exemplifies Trinity’s values which are rooted in intentional care and investment into the hearts and minds of the community. In spearheading this initiative, the TWU Wellness centre has shown the student body that they truly care about their well-being, and I believe that the Well is an initiative that exemplifies Christ-like care and support of the students.
Having struggled with the stress and anxiety of academia and life myself, and knowing many friends and family members who have also struggled with this, I value the initiative that the Well has made to not only bring to the surface the reality of metal health struggles, but also provide an accessible, welcoming, and judgement-free space for students to seek help and gain the resources they need to live a healthy life.
The Well is more than just a space to get a massage every now and then, the Well is a symbol of support for students. It shows that Trinity cares about its students, and cares for their needs.