Salmon Arm Secondary’s Wellness Centre, located at the Sullivan campus, is an initiative that has been long in the works. After finally becoming available for students after a soft-launch April 5, which saw more than 200 students attend, the feedback about the centre and the results produced have been overwhelmingly positive.
The Wellness Centre at SAS is the first of its kind in the region, and among the first in B.C., modelled around similar programs in Nanaimo and Maple Ridge. Monica Kriese, coordinator of the Wellness Centre, and Dr. Richard Currie, who has clinical hours at the centre weekly, attended the June 19 North Okanagan-Shuswap School Board meeting to talk about the progress so far, including statistics on usage and student feedback about the supports offered.
Of the initial launch, Kriese says “it was so full and buzzing, it was awesome. It was two years ago that we proposed this idea to our local action team, we worked long and hard and are really pleased about what it brought about.”
Currie spoke at the board meeting about the medical encounters he has been seeing in his weekly clinical hours at the Wellness Centre, reinforcing the idea that mental health supports are the most in-demand services for youth accessing the clinic.
“We expected when we started there was a large need in mental health, and that bringing these services to kids would be most effective, but nobody anticipated what actually happened, it has been a little overwhelming,” Kriese says. “We have two to three students per week with significant issues coming to the clinic and I am impressed by community partners stepping up to help.”
Currie also notes that a common opinion in the community is that schools should have been doing this years ago, saying “there are days when I leave the clinic and that comment haunts me because the need is huge.”
Kriese noted that the services most accessed by were mental health supports and counselling, also being the number one service students were hoping to see in this Wellness Centre.
Other services students have reported they wish to access include sexual education and support, STI testing, drug education, general counselling and a safe space or support centre for LGBTQ students.
The current programming of the Wellness Centre includes sexual health info on Tuesdays, visits from a public health nurse Wednesdays, a walk-in medical clinic with Currie and open counselling sessions Thursdays, and weekly talks about healthy relationships and consent with the SAFE Society on Fridays.
Kriese says in the last two weeks the number of students coming to the Wellness Centre has doubled after they created a more private space for discussions surrounding sexual health. She also notes requests for birth control have also increased.
“Some people don’t like hearing that,” Kriese says, “but to us we are prepared to help and ensure young people are being safe and aren’t having a child at this point.”
Of the Wellness Centre, board trustee Mike McKay remarked: “There are kids for whom this is a safe harbour; it’s not just a safe protective place but a place to grow, engage and connect. It truly does save lives, it is remarkable work… People are expecting excellence, but excellence doesn’t just mean the high flyers continue to fly, it means that everybody gets the support they need to get ahead.”