Building campus health and wellness together

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Health and wellness have, in recent years, become topics of perennial discussion on Ontario university campuses. Universities are under increasing pressure to provide comprehensive health services to their students.

In November, Dr. Walter Mittelstaedt, UW’s Director of Campus Wellness, provided Senate with an update on the growth of Waterloo’s Wellness Services over the past couple of years. He highlighted some successful efforts at streamlining processes and stressed his desire to continue making services readily available to students. His presentation received a mixed response from our fellow student senators: some appreciated the update and commended the progress, while others countered it by suggesting that our campus lacks a genuine “wellness culture.”

Staring down the road ahead, it is clear we have a lot left to do. Wait times, illness verification and patient records are commonly brought up as areas in need of improvement. Even the concern about a subpar “wellness culture” may eventually merit deeper investigation. Nevertheless, we think there is value in taking stock of how far we have come in order to better understand where we are headed.

In the few years since we began our studies here, major changes have taken place. The Health Services expansion was completed, and following a major review of health and wellness services, Mittelstaedt, a researcher and clinical psychologist, was appointed director of Campus Wellness in 2014. For the first time, Counselling, Psychological, and Health Services were all under a single director. Since then, those services have seen integration of processes, staff, space, and strategic goals. Additionally, some new initiatives have proven to be very successful, such as drop-in counselling appointments.

These recent successes suggest that this administration cares deeply about the wellbeing of students. Our services are indeed far from perfect, but without a doubt there is a desire to continue improving them.

The most important thing to remember moving forward is that campus wellness is a collaboration, funded through UW’s operating budget and by students through the Student Services Fee. Collaboration requires dialogue, and some ways of engaging in that dialogue are more constructive than others. We will provide a few examples in closing here:

  • Make sure your student representatives know what deficiencies exist. Much of campus wellness is funded by the Student Services Advisory Committee (Sacha sits on this one). Meanwhile, progress updates are often presented at the Undergraduate Student Relations Committee (Andrew sits on this one). If you have specific issues that you would like to see addressed in the future, contact us.
  • After accessing care, consider providing feedback, whether your experience was positive or not. This helps service providers know what to keep doing and what could use some improvement.
  • Long wait times are a common reason students decide to not make an appointment. However, if you don’t make an appointment, no one will know you needed service and then it can’t be considered “demand.” So, if you need to see a doctor or a counsellor, make an appointment. If it does indeed take too long, in the meantime seek assistance elsewhere, and refer back to our first suggestion.

What do you think of UW Wellness Services? If you had to choose, what would you have them focus on next?

 

Andrew and Sacha are the at-large undergraduate representatives on the University Senate. Send them your thoughts at andrew.clubine@uwaterloo.ca or sforstner@uwaterloo.ca.

 

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