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PHOTOS: Mental health focus takes central stage at Okanagan College

Vernon Morning Star - 1/25/2024

The Pit in Okanagan College's (OC) Student Services lower lounge was filled with puppies, baked goods, counselling services and more on Wednesday.

Jan. 24 was Bell Let's Talk Day across Canada and OC's Kelowna campus had many booths and vendors set up for students to learn more about mental health and options for them around the college.

Included in the vendors were therapy dogs, which is a regular part of mental health support students receive on campus.

"The therapy dogs are really amazing and provide our students with so much stress relief that it is really impactful to have them at OC," said dean of students James Coble. "Our goal is to support students and providing a variety of different ways for students to deal with stress and mental health issues is one way we do that."

One of the dogs named Bella belongs to Heather Thompson, an employee at the Kelowna campus.

"Getting to spend time with Bella brings the students so much joy, they are all experiencing different stresses of life and it is great to give them a chance to relax and unwind by stopping to pet her and the other therapy dogs," said Thompson. "I always love seeing the change that the dogs create in people's days everywhere we go."

Dana Barclay, a second-year water engineering and technology student who volunteered at the event knows the importance of mental health in post-secondary students.

"It's important because this age of trying to figure out your life on top of family stress or relationships or working through the past and 'what do I actually want out of life? Who am I as my own person?' I think there's a lot of struggles like that, there is a stigma around talking about it," said Barclay.

The school financial aid has a station set up at the event as well as Interior Health.