Hamilton,
01
February
2016
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05:15 PM
America/New_York

Spotlight on: Louisa Drost, Director Counselling, Accessible Learning Services and Health Services

Summary

Spotlight on is a special series profiling the faculty and staff at Mohawk who are making a difference at the college and in the community.

Louisa Drost is committed to making Mohawk an even more accessible and rewarding college for every student, no matter their challenges.

As Director of Counselling, Accessible Learning Services and Health Services, Drost oversees a team that includes nurses and doctors, accessibility counsellors, advisors and officers, and personal counsellors.

Mohawk’s health services team operates a walk-in clinic, with focused health promotion for all students including those living in residence and international students who are unlikely to have a local family doctor. The team also offers general health education programs around topics ranging from smoking cessation and safe drinking to nutrition and sexual health.

“We really emphasize in a confidential appointment for students to ask questions and to share information freely,” says Drost. “Students are encouraged to drop in and talk with nurses about things they’re worried or wondering about.”

Counselling Services, with a team of registered counsellors, meets with students about their personal, career and academic concerns.

“We see a lot of students fearing failure or fearing that they won’t live up to expectations. The social and financial pressures, a competitive marketplace for jobs, school and life balance, family needs, and general stress can be overwhelming."
Louisa Drost

Highly trained counsellors help students deal with a variety of concerns including mental health issues, suicide risk, addiction, self-esteem struggles, family and financial issues, bereavement and grief, and violence and abuse.

Counsellors also help students deal with stress, especially when it comes to academics.

“We see a lot of students fearing failure or fearing that they won’t live up to expectations. The social and financial pressures, a competitive marketplace for jobs, school and life balance, family needs, and general stress can be overwhelming. “

Counsellors provide career counselling, including aptitude testing, and work with faculty, Accessible Learning Services and Student Success Advisors to help students who may be struggling either develop a plan to get back on track or move into another program.

Drost has made it a priority to have counsellors connect with students in various ways through outreach events including booths on campus, workshops and groups, and presentations.

“It’s partly to have students get to know the counselling team and to demystify the stigma associated with counselling. We’re trying to be more proactive with our students as needed to support their success. As a result of our efforts there’s been a 27 per cent increase of student contacts with counselling.”

Among those proactive initiatives is E-Success Coaching, a blog written by Dr. Heather Drummond, a counsellor and professor at Mohawk. Drummond offers practical advice to handle stress, set goals, prevent procrastination, study effectively, and increase well-being and emotional intelligence.

Drost, who arrived at Mohawk in September 2012, developed a mental health and wellness plan for the college called New Vision of Wellness: A Timely Strategic Shift. The plan moves Mohawk away from a direct service model to an integrated wellness approach across the college that emphasizes outreach, mental health promotion and events such as stress busters, puppies on campus during exams and athletics and recreation activities.

A component of that plan is an innovative initiative called Mental Health in Motion, founded in collaboration with Mohawk professors Chantal Szpak and Nick Petrella and Health Nurse Educator Glenda Dela Cruz.

The program launched in January 2015 as part of Bell’s Let’s Talk initiative. Petrella has become a mental-health advocate who publically shares his own struggles with depression and anxiety.

Mental Health in Motion trains student volunteers who have experience with mental health, through themselves or others, to engage with students on campus. Student leaders wear identifiable green T-shirts and travel the campus, through promotions, talking to their peers and encouraging them to access services if warranted. The goal is to inspire peer conversations and break down the stigma around mental health.

“Students may not want to speak with a specialist in an office. It may seem like a barrier,” said Drost, a married mother of two teens. “Peer students with lived experience meeting students on the campus through events or promotions, may remove the barrier. These students will engage with counselling or other community services when comfortable.”

There is community specialized care if it’s needed including St. Joseph’s Hospital Youth Wellness Centre team who meets students between the ages of 17 and 25 on campus and in the community. This team offers transition to the community services, addictions counselling and support from a trained professional with lived experience.

The Healthy Campus Community approach, the foundation of Drost’s mental health and wellness plan, is the idea that student mental health and wellness is the collective responsibility of the entire institution.

“We’re assembling a new model for students who are living with a mental health issue themselves or in their family. Mohawk College is a place where our students will feel supported.” Staff have been attending Mental Health First Aid and are referring students to appropriate services such as Counselling and Health.

Numerous studies have found a sharp increase in post-secondary students reporting anxiety, depression and sleep loss that affects their personal lives and academic performance.

In 2014, the college’s Accessible Learning Services departments recorded 6,718 student contacts. By 2015, that increased 27 per cent to 9,443 contacts.

Accessible Learning Services (ALS) provides services and supports to students with physical, mental or learning disabilities. ALS offers alternate testing facilities, technology, confidential academic accommodation plans and other supports so that all students have a level playing field academically.

“We do a lot of outreach in high schools through our recruitment teams. We want prospective students to know that we’re here to help them succeed.” Strong partnerships across the college ensure that faculty and staff support all students. Accessibility Counsellors help both faculty and Students Success Advisors in meeting the needs of students.”

Accessible Learning Services works with all programs to make sure student accommodation needs are being met. Workshops are offered for staff and faculty around supporting students. ALS is currently offering groups and workshops for students with autism. Mohawk’s annual Accessible Awareness Day highlights the full range of services available at Mohawk and in the community.

Drost, who was born and raised in Niagara Falls, has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from The University of Guelph and a Master’s of Science in Mental Health Counselling from Niagara University in New York State.

“The students motivate us each and every day. Every employee at Mohawk in some way serves our students, and each of us play a part in their success. Together, we offer a wealth of resources and a network of support to help students work with their challenges and barriers.”
Louisa Drost

After her education, she worked in crisis and trauma services in Buffalo and a children’s mental health centre in Niagara. She was a Senior Manager at another children’s mental health centre in Toronto and has had her own clinical practice.

Drost says she was attracted to the opportunity to join Mohawk because of her interest in the emerging adult years, a phase of development between adolescence and adulthood.

“The students motivate us each and every day. Every employee at Mohawk in some way serves our students, and each of us play a part in their success. Together, we offer a wealth of resources and a network of support to help students work with their challenges and barriers.”

Each time she attends Convocation and congratulates new graduates who’ve overcome adversity, or required accommodations for their success, Drost says she’s grateful for the role she plays in helping Mohawk students succeed.

“Everyone wants to make a difference in someone else’s life. We get to do that every day here at Mohawk.”

Contact Louisa at:

louisa.drost@mohawkcollege.ca

905.575.1212- ext 2435‚Äč

Spotlight on is written by Freelance writer and editor Meredith MacLeod.

Follow Meredith on Twitter @meredithmacleod

About Mohawk

Mohawk College educates and serves 30,000 full-time, part-time, apprenticeship and international students at three campuses and two City School locations at the Eva Rothwell Resource Centre and the Central Public Library in Hamilton, Ontario. Mohawk has ranked first among all Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area colleges in student satisfaction for seven consecutive years and first in graduate satisfaction for the past five years. Mohawk ranks 15th among all colleges in Canada for applied research activity and has been named among Canada’s greenest employers and the region’s top employers for the past three years.