Talking mental health

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by Gina Hsu

The Student Mental Heath Forum, part of Thrive Week 2019, offered insight into the shortcomings of mental health initiatives on the UW campus.

The Committee on Student Mental Health (CoSMH) hosted the forum at Federation Hall on Nov. 6. The Student Mental Health Forum was a chance for students, staff, and faculty to learn how the CoSMH has been implementing the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH) report recommendations.

The executive panel provided detailed descriptions on what has been executed by the CoSMH since the last forum, in Oct. 2018. Some of these implementations included increasing exposure to information about resources by getting physical copies out to faculty and students, the creation of the campus wellness webpage to provide resource information in a single platform, and establishing after hours support through the Here 24/7 service.

Professor John Hirdes, CoSMH chair, also highlighted some of the topics covered by the PAC-SMH report that will be or are currently being dealt with.

“We will be joining the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addictions, which is a post-secondary partnership around substance use programs, and then we are beginning to think about how should the university invest in additional training opportunities and research around disproportionately affected populations,” he said.

Michael Beauchemin, WUSA president, shared his views on the ongoing nature of CoSMH’s initiatives.

“I think there’s a better base-level of understanding on what’s offered and how to access it, but further increasing that awareness will continue to be crucial as we work to connect students with the services they need,” he said.

Feridun Hamdullahpur, UW President, shared Beauchemin’s view. 

“[Mental health awareness] shouldn’t stop at orientation, it should be an ongoing communication effort so that we will feel all the time like we are not alone.”

Both the executive panel and the audience recognized completing the PAC-SMH recommendations, as well as working to combat continual and newfound issues, are  fundamental to the CoSMH initiatives.

 “I really appreciate that they acknowledged the work that has been done, while not ignoring the fact that there still is a lot of stuff that needs working on. I think it’s really important that people [do] not fall back on what progress has been made,” Aravis Baird-Herron, an education director for the Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity, said. They also brought up the importance of transparency when it comes to the work of the CoSMH.

“I feel like more transparency overall with how the processes are working would be good for everyone. There wouldn’t be quite as much a feeling of us against them, in terms of students advocating for mental health and the university trying to work with them,” they said.

For more information about resources on campus, visit the Campus Wellness page at https://uwaterloo.ca/campus-wellness/.