The first year of college or university can be both exciting and terrifying, something Samantha knows firsthand. “It’s such a huge change from high school to university in terms of workload and not having the same support system you used to have at home,” says the freshman. “There is homesickness and anxiety around assignments and exams, and trying to find your way around all that can be a challenge.”
Students also face a host of other possible challenges, including poor nutrition, weight gain, fatigue, drug and alcohol use, sexual health issues and mental health concerns. According to the 2016 National College Health Assessment survey, the number of students dealing with anxiety and depression is on the rise.
Dr. Karen Fleming is the Interim Chief of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, which in addition to the Bayview Campus, has several locations within the community. She says there has been a growing demand in recent years for health care services from the university population in their clinics. “Given this increasing need for seeing them for physical or mental health related issues with the changes that go with being in university, we decided to set aside some time to specifically address those coming home.”
That means they will be reworking their clinics to accommodate this specific patient population on certain days over the break. And the care they provide has a big range. It could be as simple as updating immunizations and giving flu shots, to managing more complex ongoing care where supports are needed at school or in other areas away from home.
“Many of the youth that I’m seeing, I delivered them many years ago and they have grown up in our offices,” says Dr. Fleming. “When you know a family and someone well and know the history, you’re in a better position to helping them get the resources they need.” She says this care acts as a helpful bridge to the services provided by health teams on campus.
Samantha says it’s comforting to return to familiarity after a big period of adjustment. “There are resources on campus and they are really good, but often times you want to come home to someone that really knows you and can help you.”
For any student dealing with a physical or mental health care issue, Dr. Fleming urges them to reach out for care and support right away.