The President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH) hosted a supporting panel launch day Thursday, July 27, 2017. It was the first time the supporting panels were able to meet with each other and brought together perspectives from students, faculty, staff, community partners, alumni, and parents.
The participants met in Hagey Hall and were welcomed by Walter Mittelstaedt, Director of Campus Wellness and the Chair of the PAC-SMH. Participants then heard from special guest speaker Dr. Mike Condra, from Queen’s University, who acknowledged that: “What you are about to embark on is a really important project.”
Dr. Condra spoke about his experiences as the Director of the Department of Health, Counselling, and Disability Services at Queen’s and provided information to the panel participants about mental health in general as well as University of Waterloo statistics. He spoke about the value of peer to peer support and the value of reaching out even it feels uncomfortable. Dr. Condra ended his presentation by reminding the group that hope is a key ingredient for helping people: “People who are frightened lose hope and we need to help them find it.”
Supporting panel groups then heard from representatives on the topics of existing Campus Wellness resources and learned about other campus-wide initiatives that support student mental health and wellness. Dr. Tom Ruttan, Director of Counselling Services answered questions about the number of staff in his department after presenting an overview of the available services on campus.
Dr. Clark Baldwin, Medical Director at Health Services, presented information about how Health Services supports mental health needs on campus and announced that new services such as same-day psychiatry appointments, evening psychiatry hours, and the hiring of an additional psychiatrist would all be taking place in September 2017.
In the afternoon each panel met to have a breakout session where they reviewed the sample mandate questions supplied by the PAC-SMH for their panel, determined their research needs and what kinds of outreach events they might want to have, and developed plans for their ongoing meetings going forward. The topic panels are Academic, Community Partners, Mental Health Experts, Student Experience, and Student Services.
When the groups got back together, they reported to the larger audience their plan and proposed approaches and heard remarks from George Dixon, Vice-President, Academic and Provost, who thanked the groups for their service.