StFX welcomes new position aimed at supporting students’ mental health

L-r, Health and Counselling director Margie McKinnon and RN Shauna Grant-Smith, who will lead a number of new community-based wellness initiatives at StFX

StFX is adding to its mental health support for students. 

The StFX Health and Counselling Centre has recently hired Shauna Grant-Smith, an RN who has spent the bulk of her nursing career in community and mental health nursing, to lead a number of new community-based wellness initiatives. 

The position will add to the mental health resources already offered at StFX. 

Ms. Grant-Smith says her role will be to be out and about in “the community of StFX,” supporting the mental health of students. 

“Following all public health protocols and policies, I’m able to meet students where they are in various campus locations, such as residences and the new ‘Bloomfield Hub,’ which we’re very excited to pilot in January. ‘Bloomfield Hub’ (which will receive its official new name from students when we return in January) will be located in the Bloomfield Cafe, and will be a space for students to gather informally in the evenings with their friends,” Ms. Grant-Smith says.

“It’ll also be a chance for students to connect with new people and check out a range of wellness activities that are being planned. As a nurse, I’m especially interested in supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing from a prevention and health promotion perspective, and in helping them develop habits and skills that promote resilience. We want to help students connect the dots between their mental health and the ways they manage the everyday things in their lives, such as study habits, time management, sleep routines, eating habits and social life. Often, small but intentional changes can have a big impact on students’ overall wellbeing and on their ability to manage stress in healthy ways. Developing positive coping skills can help people thrive, even during uncertain and challenging times, such as during a pandemic,” she says.

During the two week isolation period for students after the Christmas holidays, she will have the opportunity to virtually host students daily for a mental health check-in, ‘Check up from the neck up.’

“We want all students to have a positive experience during their years at X,” Ms. Grant-Smith says. “Nurturing their mental health is important for every student. It helps the student cope with life’s stressors, reach their goals and get the most out of what life has to offer.”  

Ms. Grant-Smith says she hopes to make an impact in students’ overall experience at StFX.

“I hope to help them build confidence in themselves, to use health strategies to deal with the curve balls life can throw at them. I hope to foster resilience in our students as they move forward in their university journey. In my role I hope to promote the various ways in which students can feel supported and well balanced in their emotional and physical health while in their own backyard of StFX.”

Students already have a variety of ways to have their mental health supported during their time at StFX. 

“The Health and Counselling Centre has three clinical therapists available for individual counselling. With the pandemic, we have modified the way in which we support students individually and have moved to a virtual system. Students need to be registered with Health My Self and can make an appointment with the intake nurse who can book with one of our therapists,” Ms. Grant-Smith says. 
There are also a variety of group programs offered throughout the academic year that help support students in taking care of their mental wellness. 

“We want students to have their healthiest and happiest years possible while they are here with us at X. We want them to feel supported and to learn how to support themselves, how to be resilient as they navigate their way through their experience at StFX.” 

Ms. Grant-Smith graduated from StFX in 1998 with her nursing degree and has worked in Calgary AB, Halifax, NS, and in Antigonish since 2006. She and her husband Bryan have two daughters, Emma, a first year StFX science student, and Megan, a Grade 11 student. Their family operates Oliver’s OllieBot project, a project designed by her son Oliver who died in June 2019 after a 2.5 year battle with a rare bone cancer, Ewings Sarcoma