Meet the four new Dal counsellors hired to help Dal students stay mentally healthy

- December 2, 2021

Left to right: Joe Savidge, Marissa Walter, Melissa Hum, and Dr. Jason Chatman have joined Dalhousie Student Health & Wellness. (Provided photo)
Left to right: Joe Savidge, Marissa Walter, Melissa Hum, and Dr. Jason Chatman have joined Dalhousie Student Health & Wellness. (Provided photo)

Over the last decade, universities across Canada have seen an increase in mental health concerns within their student populations — and Dalhousie is no exception.

According to data from the National College Health Assessment survey carried out in 2013, 53 per cent of Dalhousie students reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” within the previous 12 months of that year. This rose to 73 per cent by 2019. Add in a global pandemic and shifting academic requirements, and it’s no surprise that numbers are higher than ever and continuing to grow.

To help meet the mental health needs of students, Dalhousie Student Health & Wellness has added four new counsellors to its team: Dr. Jason Chatman, Melissa Hum, Joe Savidge and Marissa Walter.

“Right now, student demand for counselling at Dalhousie is at an all-time high,” says Verity Turpin, vice-provost of student affairs (acting). “The number of same-day counselling appointments held in October 2021 was 58 per cent higher than in October 2020.”

Same-day counselling at Dalhousie provides students with access to a counsellor on days where they may be experiencing increased anxiety or distress. During these appointments, a counsellor screens and assesses a student’s mental health needs, offers support and coping strategies, and discusses options that could include a referral for ongoing therapy if needed.

Students can book same-day counselling appointments Monday–Saturday, with appointments opening at 8 a.m. each day (except at 11 a.m. on Saturdays).

Since the start of the fall 2021 semester, there has been on average 92 same-day counselling appointments available each week, with approximately 75 per cent of those being booked by students. The Student Health & Wellness Centre has also had nearly 100 ongoing counselling appointments available each week.

In addition to counselling appointments, group counselling has also been a well-utilized service, with students filling registration lists for 11 counselling groups and attending drop-in groups for Graduate Students, Eating Disorder Groups and Puppy Power Hour.

A diversity of perspectives

In addition to meeting this growing demand for counselling services, Dal’s new counsellors also bring important new perspectives to the table to help students.

“We understand the impact mental health can have on student success and overall wellness,” says Dr. David Pilon, director of counselling services at Dal. “Our new counsellors provide additional diversity for our interprofessional team both in terms of their disciplines of practice as well as their backgrounds.”

Learn more below about each counsellor:

  • Dr. Jason Chatman, a psychologist, brings many years of experience in working with youth and young adults, particularly those identifying from marginalized groups.

  • Melissa Hum, a social worker, has previous experience working at the Dalhousie School of Social Work Clinic.

  • Marissa Walter is just completing her professional training as a Psychologist and her Master’s thesis research involves public affection-sharing and health associations in interracial relationships.

  • Joe Savidge is a counsellor who brings many years of experience working with Youthspace, supporting countless youth in crisis across the country.

Turpin says the team is now better placed to meet the needs of students.

“Our interprofessional collaborative healthcare team is committed to supporting our students’ diverse mental health needs. We look forward to working with our new team members to help foster a healthy and inclusive campus community at Dalhousie.”


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus