Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health releases report
The President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH) has released its final report, which contains 36 recommendations on enhancing student mental health at the University of Waterloo.
PAC-SMH was formed in March 2017 with terms of reference that included “ensuring the collection of a broad set of information on student mental health considering both the UW student body and the larger societal context.” The committee was also instructed to “ review the data and information collected and advise on the status of the progress of mental health initiatives across the university. It will examine root causes of student stress, anxiety and depression, and how to mitigate them proactively instead of reactively.” Its members were chosen in June 2017.
Chaired by Director of Campus Wellness Walter Mittelstaedt, the additional eight members of the committee consisted of members of student government, students, faculty members and University administration. The committee’s efforts were informed by five advisory panels, which included mental health experts, student services, community partners, academics and student experience.
The committee’s final report was the result of months of meetings and consultations with students, subject matter experts and community members. The submission includes a synthesis of independent submissions to the committee and the reports of the five supporting panels.
“The PAC-SMH report recognizes that there is an opportunity to look at all of University of Waterloo’s policies and policy development through the lens of student wellness,” says the report’s executive summary.
The report consists of 36 recommendations in five key areas:
- Campus Policies and Practices
- Inclusive and Supportive Campus Culture
- Mental Health Awareness and Communication
- Prevention and Early Intervention
- Service Access and Delivery
In acknowledgment of the critical importance of student mental health and the substantive work of the committee, President Hamdullahpur has asked the Provost to implement the following recommendations immediately:
- The establishment of an implementation committee chaired by School of Public Health and Health Systems Professor John Hirdes that will develop a rollout plan in the coming weeks;
- Investing $1.2M in mental health and well-being for students on campus, effective May 1, 2018. This initiative is in partnership with the Federation of Students and the Graduate Students Association and addresses one of the key recommendations in the report – having one counselor per 1,000 students.
- In addition to adding more staff for counselling, this new funding supports increased mental health training for faculty and staff to aid them in identifying and assisting students in distress as well as an increase in education efforts to ensure campus is aware of what services are available and how to access them.
The remaining recommendations span a number of key areas, including service access and delivery, early intervention, awareness building and academic policies.
“The mental health of our students is of paramount importance,” says Professor John Hirdes. “I look forward to turning the remaining recommendations into actions, so we can further support the more than 70 psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, nurses and medical staff who currently assist in providing mental health support on campus.”
“This is only the beginning,” wrote President Feridun Hamdullahpur in a memo circulated to campus yesterday. “We will continue to focus on strengthening an open and supportive environment for all students.”
The report will be discussed in detail at Wednesday’s Student Mental Health Forum, which will take place at 2:00 p.m. in Federation Hall.
Pharmacist Awareness Month: Think Innovators
March is Pharmacist Awareness Month and the School of Pharmacy is encouraging others to think about the many roles pharmacists play, including the role of innovative educator.
In February, professor and pharmacist Kelly Grindrod launched Pharmacy5in5, an online platform to help pharmacy professionals test their knowledge and deepen understanding of clinical topics. Today, over 1,300 pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and students from across Ontario have signed up.
“Many pharmacists see hundreds of patients a day - it can be difficult to find time to complete continuing education modules or to attend conferences,” said Grindrod. “We designed Pharmacy5in5 with those busy pharmacists and technicians in mind.”
“It’s an online platform where users can learn five facts about a complex health topic in five minutes or less,” she explained. “We developed 5in5 by leveraging our expertise as health care providers and combining that with technology and gamification techniques. The goal is accurate, accessible, efficient continuing education for pharmacy professionals across the province. We generate resources on pharmacist scope, areas of confusion, and timely topics like opioid use.”
The Think Pharmacists series is issued by the School of Pharmacy for #PAM2018.
The play's the thing this week at UpStart 2018
The biannual Upstart Festival of Innovative Theatre is taking place this week, with three one-act plays created and performed by students taking centre stage. This year’s productions include three new plays exploring the potent themes of reflection, connection, and loss, created and staged by some of the region’s most exciting emerging artists, including:
- Hamlet Reworked adapted and performed by Gareth Potter
The performance will begin in the lobby of the Modern Languages building at 7:30 p.m. with the first of three installments by Gareth Potter as Hamlet in Hamlet Reworked. Set outside the traditional performance space, this solo presentation of a classic text reworked explores mortality, grief, and the nature of live theatre. By deconstructing and reassembling Shakespeare’s Hamlet in a personal manner, what more can we learn about Shakespeare’s most famous play? The second installment will occur during intermission in the lobby, with the final installment closing the evening onstage.
- The Game of String written by alumna Jenn Addesso
Following Potter’s performance, the audience will move into the theatre for director Brooke Barnes’ production of The Game of String. The Game of String explores the relationship between how we curate ourselves on social media and who we are in reality. In the digital world, we find ourselves in competition with others. When we die, is the digital persona we leave behind authentic to who we really were?
- Hopscotch written by Joanna Cleary
The second mainstage offering is Hopscotch, directed by Rebecca Reid. Losing herself to the afterlife, Eva and her childhood friend, Chloe, revisit their shared past and fight to keep memories of one another alive. Through honesty, pain, love, and hopscotch, they learn what it means to truly remember.
Originally an extracurricular event completely produced by students, the Theatre and Performance programme took over producing the bi-annual event in 2016, bringing the event to the main stage and increasing both the mentorship opportunities for students and the event’s production values. Please note that all three plays include mature themes and are recommended for audiences ages 12 and up.
Performances run daily from Wednesday, March 14 to Saturday, March 17 from 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in the Theatre of the Arts. Tickets can be purchased at the Theatre Box Office or at the door. For more information, including video trailers of the performances, check out the Theatre and Performance website.
Nutrition Month "myth vs. fact" for March 13
Here's the latest Nutrition Month "myth vs. fact" supplied by Health Services Dietitian Sandra Ace:
Myth: Soy foods contain plant estrogens that are bad for your health.
Fact: I get questioned about this on a weekly basis – more than any other topic. So I am going to take this opportunity to assure readers that the majority of scientific evidence suggests that soy consumption has health benefits. Soybeans contain isoflavones, weak estrogen-like substances made by plants. Much of the concern about soy’s safety relates to breast cancer risk, however studies consistently suggest there is no increased risk from soy foods in people either with or without breast cancer. On the contrary, some evidence suggests that consumption of soy products is protective, including this large study of breast cancer survivors which concluded that a higher consumption of soy isoflavone was associated with reduced total mortality. There have also been widely-circulated stories that soy may undermine male fertility however research, including this University of Guelph study, has not established significant effects.
Soy products contain many nutrients including protein, fibre, calcium, magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, thiamin, folate and iron. When consumed in the amounts contained in common foods like tofu, edamame (green soybeans), soy nuts and soy beverages, soy can safely be included as part of a healthy and balanced diet. The impact of taking soy supplements on a long term basis is less clear and should be avoided until more research is done.