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  • Caylie Gnyra

Student-Organized Wellness Symposium At Lakeland College A Resounding Success

Lakeland students Jashan and Stuti provided free henna tattoos to attendees. Photo Caylie Gnyra

Human Services students made Lakeland College proud as they organized the institution’s first Wellness Symposium, held on campus in Vermilion on Wednesday, February 28.

The free event was open to the public and was extremely well attended by Lakeland staff and students as well as the greater community. Second-year students in the child and youth care counselling program took on the responsibility of organizing the event, contacting vendors, booking rooms, and selecting, contacting, introducing, and thanking speakers.

The day began with workshops on self-compassion, personal boundaries, healthy relationships, mindfulness, and financial wellness, as well as body-moving bootcamp and yoga sessions. Gratitude and self-soothing touch were emphasized as strategies for grounding and improving connection.

Throughout the day, vendors highlighted how supporting wellness is not about extra costs but about having the right tools in our toolboxes. Mindful breathing practitioners, henna tattoo artists, mindfulness-based artisans, bodyworkers and energy workers, the Lakeland Pride Society, and others were all on hand to offer students options for exploring their well-being, enhancing resilience, and reducing stress.

Psychologist Dr. Jody Carrington spoke about burnout and emotional dysregulation at Lakeland College’s Wellness Symposium on February 28.

Dr. Jody Carrington, an internationally known psychologist originally from Viking, took the stage in the afternoon to talk about the epidemics of burnout and loneliness and their antidote, connection. She explained burnout as the process of becoming exhausted through excessive demands on energy, strength, or resources in the workplace, leading to emotional exhaustion, loss of compassion, and the experience of futility. By connecting with others, learning the skills of self- and co-regulation, and becoming familiar with both feeling and expressing big emotions, individuals can combat burnout and loneliness, both in themselves and in others.

She explained that emotional dysregulation causes people to lose access to the best parts of themselves, but that acknowledgement—that is, the act of holding space for and bearing witness to a feeling or situation—allows people to feel seen in another’s presence.

With humour, compassion, and a healthy dose of cuss words, Dr. Carrington highlighted how the human services extend to everyone who has the opportunity to serve, connect with, and uplift another person in the course of their workday, echoing the words of Ram Dass: “We are all just here walking each other home.” “If you are here in any kind of human services,” she continued, “what you are saying is, ‘I want to be a walker.’ If you have the capacity to stay regulated in times of distress, you are learning to be a better walker.”

As her session drew to a close, Dr. Carrington invited members of the audience to pull out their phones and choose one person in their life to text, “I don’t know if I tell you this enough, but you matter to me.” One Emergency Services student shared that his mother responded, “Okay, who are you and what have you done with my son?” resulting in laughter from the audience. The stories of what transpired in these interactions may be shared or kept confidential over the coming weeks, but undoubtedly had an impact on attendees’ sense of connection and gratitude.

Dr. Carrington concluded her talk by saying, “It’s holy work that you’re stepping into and I promise you we need it now more than ever.”

The timing of the event was perfect for human services students, who have four weeks before they go out on practicum and are currently managing high loads of stress. The event was also well attended by the new group of Emergency Services Technician students at the college’s Emergency Training Centre, who benefitted from hearing about Dr. Carrington’s unwavering commitment to the mental health of first responders. The organizers had generously agreed to schedule the event to accommodate the arrival of the new Emergency Services students, which Dean of the Emergency Training Centre Shawn McKerry was “immensely appreciative” for.

Ann Hewko, the second-year human services student who took on the initial organizing of the symposium as her practicum project before other students joined the team in the second semester, said, “I feel really proud to be a part of such an inspirational and successful event, and it makes me very proud and motivated to go into the field of human services.” Hewko is concurrently taking therapeutic riding instructor training to teach riding to children with disabilities, and has hopes of incorporating animals into her future practice, demonstrating the vast possibilities opened up by a diploma in human services.

Nina Barrett and Tami Smith, instructors in the Human Services department, expressed pride in the students for taking on something so big, tending to the details of selecting the keynote and workshop speakers, attracting vendors, and steering the entire project.

The event was proudly funded by Feast on the Farm. To learn more about Dr. Carrington’s work, check out her Everyone Comes from Somewhere podcast ( or her new book, Feeling Seen.

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