SAIT Polytechnic’s Student Association (SAITSA) puts a major emphasis on student well-being and mental health. SAITSA identifies critical times wherein students tend to experience stress and mental health issues and provides services and activities accordingly. For example, from October 6th -9th, SAITSA Mental Health Awareness Week included stand-up comedy, pet therapy, “Speed Friending”, information booths, massages, Zumba and Yoga. The Awareness Week coincided with Depression Screening Day, which was offered through Student Development and Counselling and the Calgary Counselling Centre, and SAITSA’s Mental Health Awareness Week was one way to encourage students to participate in the screening and access resources if needed. Most recently, SAITA’s De-Stress Fest (December 1st – December 5th) was a week filled with activities designed to reduce the stress of studying students, and proved to be an excellent opportunity to partner with the Reg Erhardt Library at SAIT.
As academic library staff know well, the end of the semester and the week preceding finals is a time of frustration and anxiety for many students: They are busy writing reports and preparing for exam week, which results in increased use of the library by students. The many deadlines and subjects to study also increases student stress, which the Student Association combatted with two installments of “Pet- A- Puppy”, stress relief giveaways, jokes, meditation, bubble wrap and games. The library and SAITSA were able to extend the De-Stress Fest into the evening with Library De-Stress, which was held from 6:30 – 8:30 from December 1st – December 5th. Each evening, a SAITSA rep and a library staff person encouraged students to take a break from their studies and enjoy free juice, coffee, tea, granola bars and fruits in the library computer commons, near the entrance to the library.
Library Manager, Genevieve Luthy, explains her support for Library De-Stress: “It’s a fun opportunity to remind students that we’re here to support them and that we care about more than just their academic needs. It’s also been a chance for library staff to interact with students in a more informal way than usual, and make great connections”. As students enjoyed their free snacks and drinks, they were able to ask questions to their SAITSA representatives and library staff. The most frequently asked question was definitely “Why are you giving us free food?” which allowed SAITSA and the library to tell them things like “because it’s important that you take a break”, “because we care about you”, and “because you’re worth it”. The students showed immense gratitude and said things like, “this made my day!” and “I haven’t eaten a fruit or vegetable in weeks”
While the main point of the Library De-Stress was very simply feed hungry students, it ended up being a low-maintenance way to market services that the library and SAITSA offer year-round. SAITSA VP Academic Kimmi Nguyen says, “Library De-Stress was a chance for us to branch out from the Student Support Centre and promote the resource to other students who were not aware of the help that is available there, and it’s been a way to be where the students are.” The SAITSA Student Support Centre is a non-academic space with comfy couches, games and resources (including a new remote library collection of books about coping with college life). SAITSA reps were able to tell students about the Support Centre, and many students were excited to learn about it for the first time at the library. The library was able to let students know about the popular reading and graphic novel sections, point out citation guides and help with printing reports during the De-Stress activities.
Library De-Stress was about nourishing students with healthy snacks and encouraging them to take much-needed breaks, but the SAITSA-library partners didn’t stop there. Students also sometimes need some inspiration to help them succeed. SAITSA and the Library provided students with a Study Inspiration wall, movable whiteboard and post-it notes so that they could share inspirational and motivational messages with their peers. The Study Inspiration project will remain active until the last day of finals.
Happy holidays from the Reg Erhardt Library at SAIT!