The Wellness Centre - more than just free condoms

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Written by Reilly Scott

Yes, Wellness does give out free condoms to U of G students…(I know, it’s great!)…But there are so many other reasons why visiting Wellness (located in the JT Powell building above Student Health Services) is well worth your while. From its large range of programs to its presentation and workshop resources, the Wellness Centre provides a goldmine of support and information to the Guelph campus. And the best part? ….. It’s absolutely free!

Generally speaking, the Wellness Centre is “an educational resource centre providing information and resources to students, staff, faculty, residence life staff and off-campus groups” (www.wellnesscentre.uoguelph.ca). It is comprised of over 20 peer helpers along with a large number of volunteers. It is a safe, support space that offers a wide variety of resources including materials for classroom presentations, training sessions, fact sheets, info kits, bulletins for residence and a variety of information workshops that can be held at your request.

Wellness encourages healthy balance in the lives of all individuals. And being an open, non-judgemental environment, it recognizes that finding ‘balance’ is different for everybody. “One of the most common images associated with balance is a set of scales teetering on a single point in the middle,” says Olga Malinowska, Senior wellness peer. “That’s the funny thing. Why does balance have to be defined as being directly in the middle?” Malinowska claims that Wellness supports the idea that balance can be achieved at any point on the spectrum. In other words, they meet students where they are personally, which correlates with Wellness’ policy of harm reduction. “We don’t tell students to do or not do something. We give options to help reduce the risks involved with certain activities,” (Malinowska). An example of this is the free condoms that Wellness gives out to students to help prevent the risk of STIs. Wellness is, in fact, a sex-positive environment that sees sex “as a form of self-expression to be enjoyed” (Malinowska). Rather than pressuring students to change their lifestyles, Wellness offers suggestions regarding safe practices based upon each person’s preferences. This way, it is a space that is free of judgement and continues to be a safe, open and supportive environment.

But beyond it’s role as a support system, Wellness also provides fabulous opportunities for involvement on the U of G campus and in the larger community. To begin, it offers a large variety of programs that are topic specific and focus on important issues and interests. Some examples are:

Acceptance without limits – a group and is “dedicated to raising awareness and initiating education about eating disorders, body image and self esteem” (wellnesscentre.uoguelph.ca).

Forward minds – “dedicated to helping shed light on mental health issues affecting students on campus, as well as to fight the stigma surrounding mental illness” (wellnesscentre.uoguelph.ca).

Speak OUT – helps to make campus a positive space for LGBTQ persons while also educating about homophobia and fighting against it.

NAKED – is an on campus sexuality awareness team. It strives to “communicate a wide array of issues pertaining to sexuality through interactive workshops and events… encourage[s] more open and accurate discussions surrounding sexuality, to improve communication and create positive and enjoyable sexuality for all” (wellnesscentre.uoguelph.ca).

Leave the pack behind – “a group of committed students working hard to serve the needs of students, faculty and staff who want to quit smoking, cut down, or learn more about tobacco and nicotine” (wellnesscentre.uoguelph.ca.

*Wellness programs run weekly meetings and openly welcome and encourage volunteers.

So, when it boils down to it, wellness is essentially all about students working together to help students by lending support without passing judgment. Wellness’ harm reduction model means that students can feel safe using wellness resources without feeling intimidated or pressured to make specific decisions. That is one of the best things about wellness; students can be confident that it will offer support in finding a balance that is based upon their own personal decisions. It recognizes that everyone is, after all, different. “Wellness IS all about balance,” says Malinowska, “but we’re more like the scales you encounter in physics class: a board, some weighted boxes, a triangle-shaped object as the balance point and a plethora of possibilities.”
Check out www.wellnesscentre.uoguelph.ca to learn more about how you can become involved,download volunteer application forms or download workshop request forms.

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