When a student transitions from high school to a post-secondary institution, it can be intimidating. It can be a source of anxiety and depression, and it’s getting worse. According to the American College Health Association, in 2016, 15% of the students in Ontario were treated for depression. This is a significant increase over the 10% that reported treatment in 2013. Anxiety also showed an increase over the same period. Students seeking help for anxiety jumped from 13% to 18% in 2016.
Humber has been working on addressing the mental health of their new students. First-Year Experience, FYE, is a program designed to help new students adjust to the post-secondary environment. FYE operates out of the welcome centre at the Lakeshore campus and the student life building at the North campus. A peer mentoring program helps students transition successfully both academically and socially. The program matches up first-year students with older students who are in the same or similar programs. That way, the students can get relevant information about their program from someone who knows the program and what’s involved. First-Year Experience also has events and activities to help students feel more comfortable socially. There are six workshops spread over six weeks that are designed to showcase different aspects of the school. The workshops progress from an overall look at the campus to specific services. It even helps out other students with career options after completing their program. It is a crash course into how the school operates, where things are, such as dining and services on the campus, and how to balance their life outside of school with the work they do at Humber.
Another example of the types of FYE programs that address the mental health of new students is their Emotional Intelligence Program or EI Program. According to the FYE website, EI is described as “a set of emotional and social skills that influence the way we perceive and express ourselves.” It has been created to help people gain more skills and knowledge of emotional intelligence and how it can help them with their lives. The program is said to help students with decision-making, stress management and interpersonal relationships.
Some students who have used the FYE program tend to enjoy it. “All in all (FYE) understand the student experience.” says student Mikki Decker from the North campus. “For someone like myself who needs that while studying I am so thankful to have you on campus.” The ability to have a mentor in the same program as a first-year student is one of the most appealing factors of the First-Year Experience program.
FYE actively reaches out to the Humber community through flyers and volunteers spread out across both campuses. Through social media such as Twitter and Facebook, FYE advertises different events and workshops taking place over the school year. For example, they run Earth Month events over the month of March and have wellness events to try and ease the stress on some students, especially around the end of the semester when students are preparing for final exams and working on essential papers. FYE also has many tables set up across the campus to raise awareness for many events.
“It provided a lot of useful information about things that could really help people”, says Christine Crawford said about FYE. Another Humber student Pratik Patel added that “Only one word can describe the experience for me that is exhilarating.”
The program has become particularly popular with many international students who have travelled from countries worldwide, such as Brazil and Russia. The pressure of adjusting to life in a new school and a new country is a tall task to navigate. While Humber also offers programs for international students, the FYE program helps supplement the services provided.
Humber has done the job so far. “Our student staff also plans events for students, in the hope to help first years feel connected with the Humber Community while providing them with an opportunity to network and make friends.” says a representative from the FYE team. If looking at student responses is an indication, the program has worked well and has taken some needed steps to try and combat anxiety and depression amongst post-secondary students.