• Editorial

External Relations - Zoe Kruschke

Written by: Wyatt Lynds

Photograph provided

As seen in the March 2019 issue of Lazy Faire magazine

What purpose does Unitea serve?

Unitea is partly a mental health initiative. It is not meant to be for people with mental health problems, but rather accessible to anyone on campus. Unitea’s goal is to instigate conversation, primarily with students on campus who may feel lonely or not totally know the resources on campus. It is a casual initiative, with a purpose to build conversation and a community on campus. Unitea is more of a preventative mental health model, rather than helping people through bigger issues.

How does Unitea operate?

Unitea works through an online booking system. Students can book an appointment on the webpage, which can be found at https://www.ualberta.ca/community-social-work/unitea. Times run between 9am-4pm from Monday to Friday. It is an hour, whenever you are free, and we will bring you a free travel mug, plus a free tea or coffee from the Daily Grind, who we have a partnership with.

What position do you hold in Unitea?

I am one of the hosts, which is essentially a volunteer. You can book Tea Times with hosts for an hour. We (hosts) have monthly meetings and participate in promotional work. We have all been trained through the Community Helpers program, which is a program for active listening support.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am in my fourth year of undergraduate studies in the Faculty of Science, majoring in Psychology. Additionally, I am in the honours program, and am currently doing research.

What led you to Unitea?

I cannot remember exactly how I found out about it; I think I read about it in the Students’ Digest. I had been looking for some volunteer opportunities on campus. Unitea struck me because I am someone who enjoys one-on-one conversation and connecting with people that way, as opposed to a group. I really agree with what they are doing, and it is quite new, so I thought it would be cool to help build this organization.

If a student required support, how could they contact, or receive help from, Unitea?

Unitea offers Tea Time bookings online with our hosts. We are an organization through the Community Social Work Team on campus, and can connect them to that team for further support or other mental health services on campus. Unitea is a pure support system, but more casual than the Peer Support Centre.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at Unitea?

Definitely having these one-on-one tea times, but our monthly meetings are also great because it’s a community within the volunteers. Also, we get constant support from the Social Work teams, so if we have any questions or concerns, it is a very comfortable environment to reach out and talk to people. That community aspect of being a volunteer has been great as well.

How can an interested student become a Unitea host?

We are not in the volunteer recruitment stage yet, but you can contact the link on our site if you want to be a volunteer. Otherwise, reaching out to the Community Social Work Team on campus is your other best bet. Recruitment is usually in the Spring; interviews are in early April; and the Community Helpers training is in late August.

What have you learned from your time at Unitea?

The one-on-one conversations have helped me become a better listener, and providing support in a way that is not giving advice all the time. There is so much more to providing support; I think Unitea has really helped me hone those skills in that respect. Additionally, we do promotional work, which has helped me become better, socially, at reaching out to people on campus and talking to strangers.

Has Unitea inspired you to pursue a profession similar to the position you currently hold?

Well, I had been interested in therapy before I joined, which is what drew me to psychology. I am a not a therapist, by any means in this role, but it has solidified that path for me in a way because it is something I am really passionate about. Unitea has helped with active listening skills and how to carry out conversations one-on-one with people. Unitea has inspired me to keep going on this journey.

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