Augustana Medium
Now Reading:

Augustana’s Unitea helpers

Augustana’s Unitea helpers

Interviews with each of this year’s Unitea volunteers

UniTea is a peer support program that facilitates one-on-one conversations between Augustana student volunteers and other students. The purpose of these conversations is to support students who may be coping with mental illness, to destigmatize mental illness, and create a community of prevention and acceptance.

Augustana has enrolled six students as volunteers, all of whom expressed a passion for mental health issues. The volunteers have been equipped with various types of training surrounding mental health such as depression and suicide prevention training. UniTea is a service that all students are encouraged to utilize, especially given the stressful nature of university.

Kristian Heartt

What is your favorite type of tea?

My favourite type of tea is peppermint.

Why do you think that tea and conversation makes such a powerful combination?

The act of drinking tea – or any hot beverage for that matter – can be seen as a calming activity which makes it perfect to have during any type of discussion. Furthermore, it gives more substance to the talk as well because students won’t just be coming for a conversation, but also to have a cup of tea.

What do you value about one on one interactions with students?

I value getting to know the students for who they are and whatever may be on their mind. I think everyone deserves a chance to talk with someone that will listen without judgment and act as a person of support.

Is there a specific mental health issue that you hope to bring awareness to in your work as a UniTea Volunteer?

Depression would have to be the biggest health issue for me. Depression is prevalent in many university students and is a leading cause in fatalities of young people. Shedding more light onto this issue can help reduce the stigma attached to it and make it more comfortable for people who are suffering to acknowledge their condition.

What do you hope to gain from your UniTea experience as a student and volunteer?

I hope to gain experience with being a person of support and know that my conversations may have changed a person’s attitude or decision in the most positive way possible.

Hannan Mohamud

What is your favorite kind of tea?

Earl grey and ginger lemon. But when I feel really basic, a pumpkin spice latte.

Why do you think that tea and conversation make such a powerful combination?

Being on a campus where there is a lot of first years who are away from home for the first time and even friends who are feeling lonely. Hearing about how Augustana is going to incorporate UniTea, I wanted to do that. Being an RA, and, even before that, I always had people coming to me to talk and opening up to me. If I can help my friends, I want to help everyone else too.

What do you value about one on one interactions with students?

I enjoy it because it gives you that authentic, open body language. Even if someone tells you they are okay, you can tell by body language that they may not be. I rather have the ability to actually see that person so that I can see whether they are joyful or sad.

Is there a specific mental health issue that you hope to bring awareness to in your work as a UniTea volunteer?

Depression because I feel like that is something I have a chance to help people with.

Our UniTea training also equipped us with QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) training and other suicide prevention training. Just talking to someone cannot cure depression but it could make a difference.

What do you hope to gain from your UniTea experience as a student and volunteer?

I hope that the Augustana community will become more open about mental health issues and realize that this is a safe place and you are never alone. I also hope that this helps me as a psychology major. It’s one thing to read about mental health issues but it’s more powerful and meaningful to hear it from someone else.

Jasohna Haukenfrers

What is your favorite kind of tea?

My favorite kind of tea is chai but specifically I love the Tetley Vanilla Chai.

Why do you think that tea and conversation make such a powerful combination?

Tea and conversation are a powerful combination because with UniTea it is a non-confrontational way to give peers advice, guidance and support that can motivate them to continue on their journey not only through University and Augustana but also the rest of their lives.

What do you value about one on one interaction with students?

The one-on-one interactions are super valuable because as a host I am giving my peer my 100% attention for one hour regardless of who they are, where they come from and what they are dealing with. In the world we have today, with Facebook and social media everywhere we turn, the value of face-to-face conversation with others has been lost. UniTea brings people together for a conversation in the best way – with tea!

Is there a specific mental health issue that you hope to bring awareness to in your work as a Unitea volunteer?

As a UniTea volunteer I hope to bring awareness to the importance of mental health in general. With all the awareness that there is for specific disorders and issues it is often forgotten that mental health is not just good or bad. There is a spectrum and everyone is somewhere on that spectrum, and, regardless of where they are, they need to work on their mental health to maintain or improve it in some small way.

What do you hope to gain from your Unitea experience as a student and volunteer?

I love to help people and through UniTea I hope to continue to help my peers in a little bit of a more structured way where I can guide them in the right direction. I also hope to gain a new understanding of what people are going through and how they as individuals are dealing with it and how their method can be applied to someone else who may be in a similar situation.

Rachel Burkinshaw-Zelko

What is your favorite kind of tea?

My current favourite kind of tea is chai but my classic favourite is orange pekoe. I also love chamomile lavender herbal tea for late night relaxation.

Why do you think tea and conversation make such a powerful combination?

I believe that drinking tea and talking with someone is a good combination because it provides space and context for more relaxed conversation.

What do you value about one on one interactions with students?

When you speak to someone one-on-one, with the intention of spending the time just to listen to that person, it allows for much more valuable and meaningful conversation.

Is there a specific mental health issue that you hope to bring awareness to your work as a UniTea volunteer?

I believe that mental health is for everyone. It is not limited to those who have a mental illness. However, I also believe that students are at high risk for things like anxiety and depression because of the stressful nature of university. I hope to open up conversations about these topics and help to normalize and destigmatize mental illness.

What do you hope to gain from your UniTea experience as a student and volunteer?

What I hope to gain from volunteering with UniTea is to meet and learn about new, wonderful people. I hope to have meaningful conversations that help me grow as a person and I hope to be helpful to students who are in need.

Shianne Fairlie

What is your favorite type of tea?

I love fruit-flavoured teas.

Why do you think that tea and conversation makes such a powerful combination?

Conversation (and tea!) are really powerful tools for supporting someone. Everyone needs support from time to time, so I hope students will not hesitate to reach out to resources (such as Unitea) when needed.

What do you value about one on one interactions about students?

The special part of this program is that it is one-on-one interactions with fellow students, who may share similar experiences, classes, concerns, hobbies, etc. This similar ground is valuable because it helps students connect and open up about themselves so Unitea hosts can better support them.

Is there a specific mental health issue that you hope to bring awareness to in your work as a Unitea volunteer?

I hope to bring awareness to not a mental health issue specifically, but to the feeling of loneliness many students experience yet don’t seem to realize is very common among universities. It is okay to feel lonely and reach out for help, and hopefully through this program more students will be able to get the support they need.

What do you hope to gain from your experience as a student and volunteer?

I hope to be able to show students how just having someone there to listen to you is such a powerful tool when supporting someone. Hopefully students will be able to utilize Unitea for this purpose but also be able to carry this knowledge over into their personal lives to set up support systems between themselves and friends and family.

Jaden MacMillan

What is your favorite type of tea?

My favourite kind of tea right now is definitely chai tea but I can’t say I’ve tried too many flavours of tea.

Why do you think that tea and conversation make such a powerful combination?

UniTea is less about the tea and more about the conversation, it’s about connecting to students who may or may not be in a bad place, stressed, etc. and giving them someone to talk to who is willing to listen to them and help them when they need it.

What do you value about one on one interactions with students?

A one-on-one gives us a chance to personally connect with Augustana students and get to know them in a closed environment away from judgement. The founders of UniTea emphasized the importance of how just one conversation could have an impact on someone’s life.

Is there a specific mental health issue that you hope to bring awareness to in your work as a UniTea volunteer?

I can’t say there is a specific mental health problem I was looking at solving or addressing by joining UniTea, but rather it is one of our long term goals to reduce stigma overall and bring to light how common mental illness can be. If I had to pick one issue I would say it is the high levels of loneliness that plague most university students while on campus.

What do you hope to gain from your UniTea experiences as a student and volunteer?

From my experience with UniTea I hope to create a greater sense of community and help Augustana students connect with groups around campus so that everyone can have the best possible Augustana experience. In truth all I want to do is help people who are in need, I don’t think there needs to be much more of a reason than that.

MacMillan declined the Medium’s photo request.

Leave a Reply

Input your search keywords and press Enter.