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OCAD U researcher explores drawing as a way to process change after brain injury

Josephine Guan’s 2022 graduate thesis in the Inclusive Design program at OCAD University focuses on the use of drawing as a healing form of expression following a brain injury.  

Prompted by her own experience after a bike accident at a busy intersection in Toronto’s Chinatown neighbourhood, Guan’s research is, in part, a way to reshape her own identity after being diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome.  

“After a few years of recovery, I am in no way back to before, but I am not limited by my impairments either. Where does this leave me? How can I process what I went through to move forward?” asks Guan in the introduction of her thesis document, which can be read online.  

“Through the lens of the Inclusive Design program I came to realize that although I had impairments, much of the internal struggle I had experienced was due to society’s inability to accommodate. I had always felt like I needed to fully recover or return to my previous self in order for life to continue. Why do I have to adjust to fit my environment, instead of the other way around?” she continues.  
 
These questions are also at the centre of National AccessAbility Week, which runs in Canada from May 29 to June 4 this year. The event highlights the work of individuals like Guan, organizations and communities who are removing barriers for people with disabilities while reflecting on Canada’s ongoing efforts to become a better, more accessible and disability inclusive country. 

One in five Canadians have a disability. Brain injury is often an invisible disability in that its effects are not obviously manifested on the physical body. Injuries to the brain have the potential to affect cognition, sensory processing, communication, social behaviour, as well as overall social, mental and physical wellbeing. 

“Brain injury impacts our communication, specifically our ability to verbalize things so drawing was a good way to supplement traditional one-on-one interviews. By mailing blank postcards to participants and asking them to respond to certain prompts I got a really good understanding of how different people experience a change in their identity and relationship after brain injury,” Guan explains. Participants' drawings can be viewed on a website Guan has created.

The use of artistic methods including storytelling, dance and drawing in health as a therapeutic intervention has become increasingly popular in the past 20 years, especially where patients experience conditions that threaten or alter their lives. For Guan’s research, she asked participants to use drawing as a way to express and reflect on their experiences.  

“It is prudent that disability is not only dealt with by the individual, but by all levels of the system. This is not to discount the importance of medical research to innovate on treatments to improve quality of life for people, but our shared meaning around disability and identity need to be challenged as our society is shifting to embrace diverse human ability.” 

Guan was recognized with a 2022 OCAD University Medal in the Inclusive Design program for her research. Since completing her graduate degree Guan continues her practice as a researcher, illustrator and designer. She is currently working as a research assistant in the Department of Aging, Health, and Society at McMaster University. 

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During National AccessAbility Week we look at Josephine Guan’s thesis that applies the arts in health research.
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Welcoming OCAD U’s new Health Ambassadors

In addition to the friendly faces of your classmates, professors and technicians this Winter term, you'll be seeing OCAD University’s new Health Ambassadors on campus, beginning February 4, 2022.  

As part of the University’s commitment to keeping the community safe as we gradually return to in-person learning, OCAD U is welcoming six students who are assuming this newly created role to build awareness around COVID-19 universal precautions and make sure everyone is doing their part in reducing transmission, including wearing masks. 

This term, you’ll see teams of Health Ambassador roles wearing OCAD U smocks and badges. They will be situated in some of the busiest areas on campus, especially during class turnover times, to help with the flow of traffic near elevators and stairwells.  

Health Ambassadors will also be periodically checking your completed symptom self-assessments, which everyone on campus needs to complete before entering OCAD U buildings, and we remind everyone to stay home if they feel unwell.  

Plus, if you ever forget your mask at home, they will provide you with a medical mask. 

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This peer-to-peer position is helping to build awareness of the University’s health and safety measures.
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Meet the folks at the Student Wellness Centre 

The Student Wellness Centre (SWC) is OCAD University's one-stop shop for student accessibility, counselling, sexual violence support, resources, art therapy and health care.  
 
The SWC’s programs and services are responsive to issues relating to gender, race, age, culture, ability, sexual orientation, income and faith. Their team works to ensure your time at OCAD U is positive and fulfilling and to help you maintain optimal physical and mental well-being while pursuing your post-secondary education. 

Staff at the Centre are available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to provide comprehensive medical and supportive care. While most services are delivered virtually at this time, some in-person appointments are available. To access SWC's programs, appointments and resources students are invited to contact swc@ocadu.ca or call 416-977-6000 ext. 260 or 339 during operating hours.

The Student Wellness Centre has recently welcomed new members to the team and has also seen existing staff shift to new positions. Plus, the Centre is hiring another five employees, including a Student Wellness Coordinator and Student Wellness Community Worker.

Get to know the Centre’s staff who are here and excited to support you all year round!

Kwaku Agyeman  
kagyeman@ocadu.ca
Black Student Counsellor & Practice Lead 

A male-indentified staff member at the SWC, with a warm smile and wearing a houndstooth suit jacket

Kwaku (he/him) is a practicing Registered Psychotherapist who specializes in offering collaborative individual and relational therapy services. Kwaku is a second-generation Ghanaian-Canadian clinician who grew up in Toronto, and values how one’s social identities affect mental health, relational and day-to-day experiences. As the Black Student Counsellor, he utilizes strength-based, anti-oppressive, trauma-informed and anti-racist lenses alongside evidence-informed therapy models. As Practice Lead, he advocates for equitable and accessible counselling and case management services for OCAD U students. He believes equitable and accessible services are important in  supporting and enhancing student experience. 

Praanee Chandrasegaram
pchandrasegaram@ocadu.ca
Peer Support Facilitator  
A person with glasses wearing a burgundy sweatshirt. Praanee (she/they) works collaboratively with students to build on existing wellness initiatives at OCAD U and explore new ways to support the student community. Pranee, who is queer and South Asian, grew up in York Region and enjoys going to concerts, exploring art galleries, trying out new places to eat and meeting new people! Praanee looks forward to working collaboratively with the OCAD U community and to meaningfully engage the student population. 
 
Dean Davis
ddavis@ocadu.ca
Student Wellness Counsellor 
A photo of a person grinning with a septum piercing wearing a button up shirt Dean (they/them) is an art therapist, psychotherapist and OCAD U alumnus. They value working collaboratively with students to find ways to approach therapy and to support creativity that works best for them. Dean is a white, nonbinary, queer person, who has been living in Toronto and working in the arts community for over a decade. As a Student Wellness Counsellor, Dean works from a student-centred, trauma-informed and intersectional perspective, and looks forward to having deep discussions that support students in their self-exploration and personal healing. 
Tegh Dhindsa
tdhindsa@ocadu.ca
Sexual Violence Response Coordinator 
A photo of a person with a red top on, gold earrings, red eye shadow and a nose ring. Tegh (they/them) works closely with the Student Wellness Centre, students and OCAD University community to provide direct services related to sexual violence prevention, education and support. They work to create a client-centred, trauma-informed, confidential, safe(r), inclusive, non-judgmental space for survivors to find support, information and guidance on resources, accommodations and reporting options. Tegh centres Black, Indigenous and racialized survivors in their healing while decolonizing spaces through education.  
Cindy Kwong
ckwong@ocadu.ca
International Student Wellness Community Worker
A woman in a hat sits on the ground in a forest in the Fall. Through case management services including system navigation, information and referrals and supportive counselling, Cindy (she/her) walks alongside international students to support their health and well-being. Cindy is a registered social worker and expressive arts therapist (candidate), who infuses play, curiosity and body wisdom into her work with humility, accountability and collaboration. Outside of work (and even during), Cindy loves getting lost in the sensory wonders of ordinary life and welcomes others to come along!  
Alex McLaren
amclaren@ocadu.ca
Student Wellness Community Worker
An image of a person wearing a winter hat. Alex (they/them) is a proud alumnus of OCAD University and recipient of the Diversity and Excellence Award for curating the exhibition Spectrum: A Vision for Mental Health in 2014. They possess experience as an Art History Teaching Assistant, a Student Union Representative, Peer Support Facilitator and as an emerging artist and curator. Alex offers students case management, community referrals and counselling with a focus on harm reduction and intersectionality. 
Andres Navas Suarez 
andres.navas.suarez@ocadu.ca
Student Navigator
An image of a male-identified staff members at the SWC w/ facial hair, a dark t-shirt and a backwards baseball hat.

Andres Navas Suarez was born in Columbia and is majoring in Graphic Design at OCAD University. In his role at the Student Wellness Centre Andres supports student engagement and outreach. He also collaboratively creates and facilitates events on-campus and online with students and staff. 

   

 

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The Student Wellness Centre (SWC) has recently welcomed new staff and existing staff into new roles. The whole team is here to support you.
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Mental Health Services at the Student Wellness Centre: 
A Cheat Sheet 

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging, not least for our community's mental health. Fortunately, OCAD U’s Student Wellness Centre (SWC) offers a range of free and confidential services to support you through the pandemic and to help you maintain your mental well-being.   

Student Wellness Centre staff are available Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to provide comprehensive medical and supportive care for your mental health.  While most services are delivered virtually at this time, some in-person appointments are available. 
 
Students may connect with accessibility advisors, counsellors, peers, community workers and doctors primarily over email, phone and video. Get to know the team at the Centre by reading about their roles and experience.

Check out the Student Wellness Centre’s services listed below. More detailed information about the SWC can be found on their website
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Virtual Counselling Appointments at the Student Wellness Centre 

Counselling at the Student Wellness Centre is free. Our Counsellors and Community Workers provide virtual one-on-one sessions that can be carried out on Teams or by phone. Appointments can be booked two weeks in advance.  
 
Book a virtual appointment for a: 
First time counselling session (50 minutes) 
Counselling session (30 minutes) 
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Accessing the SWC Family Doctor  

The family doctor at the Centre is available to diagnose and treat many mental health concerns. Additionally, the family doctor can refer students to the Centre's psychiatrist when deemed necessary.
 
Book an appointment with the family doctor at the Student Wellness Centre: 

  • The Centre’s family doctor is available for virtual and phone appointments. 

  • There are a limited number of same day urgent appointments available each day. Please email first thing in the morning for these appointments as they are booked on a first come first served basis.  

  • More information about in-person appointments with the family doctor can be found on the Centre’s website.  

  • During this unprecedented time, the family doctor only has the authority to provide medical services to students currently living in Ontario. We encourage you to seek healthcare where you are located. 

Contact:
Email: swc@ocadu.ca  
Call: 416-977-6000, ext. 260 
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Accessing the Psychiatrist 

The key role of the psychiatrist at the Student Wellness Centre is to provide a one-time diagnostic and/or medication consultation. Psychiatry appointments are covered by OHIP/UHIP and referrals are made at the discretion of the SWC family doctor. 
 
Start by booking an appointment with the family doctor at the Student Wellness Centre by emailing swc@ocadu.ca or calling 416-977-6000, ext. 260.  
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Virtual Counselling Appointments available through  keep.meSAFE 

As an OCAD U student you have free access to unlimited virtual services from keep.meSAFE, a platform that specializes in the mental well-being of university students like you. They offer a range of mental health services at all times of the day. You must login online or download the keep.meSAFE app (via the Apple App Store or Google Play) to access the platform’s non-urgent care services.  
   
keep.meSAFE Services: 

  • Urgent, real-time support any time over the phone at 1-800-451-9700. 

  • Virtual walk-in counselling sessions through chat or phone, available in many languages, 24 hours a day. 

  • Appointment-based support via phone, video and in-person. 

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Crisis Support at the Student Wellness Centre 

The Student Wellness Centre offers crisis intervention support. If you or a friend are experiencing an emotional crisis such as feeling overwhelmed, frightened, confused, depressed, hopeless or suicidal, we are here to help. Our biggest priority is to ensure that you are safe. 

  • If you have already seen a counsellor at the Centre you can email or call the SWC to request an urgent appointment with that counsellor.  

  • If you have never been to the Student Wellness Centre you can email or call the SWC to request an urgent appointment.  

  • The SWC is committed to being as responsive as possible and does their best to respond to all requests. 

Contact:
Email: swc@ocadu.ca  
Call: 416-977-6000, ext. 260, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. 

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Crisis Support Outside of the Centre’s Hours 

If you are in need of urgent, real-time support outside of the Centre’s operating hours you can contact Good2Talk. They are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year and specifically help post-secondary students in crisis. 
 
Contact:
Phone: 1-866-925-5454  
Text: 686868 
Web: https://good2talk.ca/ontario 

There are many more resources available for students seeking urgent support. Find out more on the Student Wellness Centre’s blog.   
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Connect with an Accessibility Advisor  

Do you have a question or concern about accessibility or accommodations? You can chat live with an Accessibility Advisor from the Student Wellness Centre or book an appointment for a longer conversation. 

Drop-in Teams Chat: 
1 to 2 p.m. 
Tuesdays and Thursdays 
 
Book an appointment: 

Email: studentaccessibility@ocadu.ca  
Call: 416-977-6000, ext. 339 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday 

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The Centre has many free and virtual mental health services available to all OCAD U students.
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The SWC Peer Wellness Program works to de-stigmatize conversations on mental health in our community through Brave Spaces and Anti-Oppressive Programming. We will be discussing physical fitness, creating SMART Goals, strategies to increase motivation, and getting back in touch with your values. 

Led by SWC Student Navigators Andres Navas Suarez and Rei Pierre. 

Workshop Agenda
01 Workouts
02 Tips 
03 Share
04 Fuel
05 What works?
06 Experiences

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Can exercise be fun?! Build healthy habits with SWC Student Navigators Andres and Rei who collaborate with the Peer Wellness team.

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July Feast is an opportunity to come together as artists and designers to do what we do best - create. 

Share strategies to shop smart, meet your budget, and learn new skills in the kitchen. Students will receive $50 gift-card to a Grocery Store after the event and the opportunity to have your work featured in a Peer Wellness Zine in September.

Hosted by Peer Wellness Navigator Rei Pierre and Peer Wellness Volunteer Nora Bahgat at the Student Wellness Centre. Peer Wellness works to build community, learn wellness strategies, and life skills through Brave Spaces and Anti-Oppressive Programming. Special Guest: Olive Pitschner Student Pantry Coordinator at the Student Union.

Contact Alex to register for July Feast over Teams or email amclaren@ocadu.ca Gift-cards will be issued to currently registered OCADU Students after participating in the event and will be issued in August 2021.

July Feast takes place over Microsoft Teams on Monday, July 26 from 3pm to 5 pm EST.

Poster by Andres Navas Suarez, SAS Student Navigator. 2021.

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July Feast is an opportunity to come together as artists and designers to do what we do best - create. Participating students receive a Grocery Gift-Card and opportunity to be published in our September Wellness Zine.

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The SWC presents the Art Therapy Group for OCAD U students.

Art therapy combines visual art techniques with psychotherapy. In the OCAD U Art Therapy Group, students will be introduced to art therapy techniques that can help them find individualized and creative ways of reducing stress. This group provides students with a space for self-expression, self-exploration, connection with peers, and stress-reduction in a non-judgmental environment.

Facilitated by: Art therapist and OCAD U alumnus, Dean Davis, DTATI, RP (Qualifying)

To join the Microsoft Teams channel for this group please email ddavis@ocadu.ca

This group is held virtually on Microsoft Teams every Wednesday afternoon from 3pm to 5pm.

First group: June 23 2021

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This group is held virtually on Microsoft Teams every Wednesday afternoon.
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The Student Wellness Centre Art Therapy Group is held virtually on Microsoft Teams every Wednesday afternoon and open to registered students.

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"DBT" is short for Dialectical Behavior Therapy and during our Spring Series we will introduce a new topic each week. Focus on skill development in four areas: distress tolerance, emotion regulation, interpersonal effectiveness, and mindfulness.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your emotions?
Distress Tolerance Skills
Friday April 30, 2021
2pm-3pm

Please join us is learning some DBT Skills this Spring during one or all of our 4-week workshop series. Click here for more.

SWC WORKSHOP FACILITATORS 
Courtney Ward, MENTAL HEALTH CLINICIAN
Riley Noik, MSW INTERN

Poster by Kainat Ahmad. 2021.

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"DBT" is short for Dialectical Behavior Therapy and during our Spring Series we will introduce a new topic each week. This weeks focus is distress tolerance.

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Create art to destress in a safe space.

The virtual art therapy group held on Wednesdays. This group will introduce students to therapeutic and visual art techniques that can work together to better understand and navigate the feelings of stress to better manage the effect of those feelings.

The goals of the group revolve around creating art for yourself, relaxing in the art making process, gaining awareness of the feelings of stress, and creating positive coping skills that are unique to your experiences. The group has been designed to facilitate various visual art techniques with affordable and accessible art.

Wednesdays at 1:30pm to 3:30pm

The group will continue every Wednesday at the same time throughout the semester. Students can join at any point throughout the semester.

To sign up for the group email: ddavis@ocadu.ca

And for more information. Please check out the link in our bio!

Poster by @kaixnat

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Healing Power of Food Workshop 

Join Chef Rei and Team_Cooking Club for a workshop on the transformative power of creating food and our relationship with the kitchen. This is an interactive workshop, and we encourage you to join us in a kitchen or clean working space with ingredients. All students are welcome.  

Join Friday at 2PM-3PM

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