VIU Counselling Team’s Mental Health and Wellness Training Program Adapted into Open Education Resource

Group shot of the VIU counselling team

From left to right, back to front, the counselling team at VIU: Irene Champagne* (International Counsellor), Darcy Minick, Gemma Armstrong, Yee Shi* (International Counsellor), Faye Shedletzky, Michelle Daoust, Noelle Hanuse, Art Phipps* (International Counsellor), Albert Seinen.

May 27, 2021 - 5:15pm

Capacity to Connect developed several years ago by Counsellors to help VIU employees support students in distress.


A new open education resource co-developed by Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) counselling team and BCcampus is now available to help post-secondary faculty and staff support students in distress.

Capacity to Connect: Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Wellness is a facilitator’s guide that provides basic mental health and wellness knowledge for post-secondary employees so they can better support students. The guide is based on a training resource VIU Counsellors developed a number of years ago to help community members to be able to recognize, respond empathically and refer students who may benefit from additional support for their well-being.  This work grew out of the good work that was already being done to support students, including input from the Vancouver Island Crisis Line and other BC post-secondary student services. 

Counsellors Gemma Armstrong and Faye Shedletzky were part of the development of the workshops, which the counselling has been delivering to VIU community members for  many years.

“We wanted to do something to support our colleagues and talk about the VIU resources available, so that when students come to them with mental health challenges, they feel more confident in supporting them,” says Armstrong.

Shedletzky says over the years, counsellors have taken turns supporting employees through Capacity to Connect workshops. When BCcampus was looking for resources that could be shared widely, the team didn’t hesitate to put theirs forward.

“I feel really happy that we can share something that might be useful,” she says. “It was really exciting to see what BCcampus did with it. I feel a lot of gratitude that we could share that.”

Both Armstrong and Shedletzky agree that one of the best parts of offering these workshops are the conversations amongst participants about their experiences and the connections that result.

“I’m happy the guide will help other university communities have these types of conversations,” says Armstrong. “Just knowing they are not alone in the challenges and uncertainties of their role in supporting students’ mental health and well-being is huge.”

“We end up creating this space where people feel free to talk about difficult things,” adds Shedletzky. “We can show them we are real people, meet them, develop relationships and it makes our community stronger because we know we are stronger together.”

Look for upcoming Capacity to Connect workshops to be offered this fall semester. Information will be posted in the VIU Digest employee enewsletter and on the webpage. The Counselling department also welcomes invitations to facilitate this workshop specifically for your department on a date and time that work for your group. Contact Counselling Services at 250-740-6416 to discuss further. Visit the Counselling Workshops homepage for more details.

Read more about the Capacity to Connect open education resource in the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training news release and the BCcampus blog post.


Media Contact:

Jenn McGarrigle, External Communications Advisor, Vancouver Island University

C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

Tags: Announcements

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