2017 PAC-SMH Report and Recommendations

Report contents

  1. Executive summary
  2. Introduction
  3. Final Report Compiling Methodology
  4. Findings and Recommendations
  5. Compiled Recommendations
  6. References
  7. Appendices - Including Supporting Panel Reports

Note: The report is also available for download as a PDF

To view a PDF summary of the compiled recommendations, see the Executive Summary and Recommendations (PDF).

Letter from the Chair

Dear members of the University of Waterloo community:

The winter 2017 semester was expected to unfold as others had in previous years. This included the predictable times of challenge associated with the milestones of the academic calendar: course introductions, assignments, mid-term examinations, and the final examination period. Interspersed with these events would be the normal stresses associated with transitions such as preparations for co-op or graduation. Unfortunately, that semester brought with it much more than those predictable sources of discomfort as two members of our student community tragically ended their lives. The sadness, grief and anger about these deaths by suicide was palpable for many months, finding expression in numerous gatherings on social and mainstream media. We acknowledge the pain and sorrow that remains with loved ones. As is the case with such tragedies, we may never know the exact circumstances that led to the students’ deaths. In the winter of 2017, it became clear that further action should be taken at the University of Waterloo to mitigate against such tragedy in the future.

It has been an honour and a privilege to be part of our University’s strong commitment to understand and improve the mental health and wellness of our students. With President Feridun Hamdullahpur’s leadership, the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH) enacted an aggressive timeline to thoroughly explore the multiple facets that relate to student mental health on campus. Members of the community demonstrated the best of the University’s compassion for students throughout this entire process. We acknowledge the significant contribution of undergraduate and graduate students, staff, faculty members, alumni, parents and community members. The interest in this project was evident early on as many individuals volunteered their ideas, time and talent. That energy was sustained throughout the process and in the face of some difficult timelines.  

I wish to thank the PAC-SMH members for their commitment, from the first call to action through to completion of the final report that we are presenting today. The more than 100 volunteers who made up the supporting panels deserve special acknowledgement; in particular, the numerous panel chairs. I was deeply impressed by the quality and detail of the reports that came from these groups in a relatively short time period. Appreciation is also due to people who made individual submissions to the PAC-SMH. Thank you for your thoughtful contributions.

Finally, a project of this scope requires the focus and steady hand of individuals whose contributions are not always visible. Thank you to all who supported this project behind the scenes as well as those that enabled the PAC-SMH members to dedicate the time and effort required.

We recognize that the completion of this report is not the end of our project, but just the end of this phase. The PAC-SMH members believe we have created a set of recommendations that balance our institutional pursuit of academic excellence with our deepest commitment to support students’ wellness.

Walter Mittelstaedt | Chair, PAC-SMH


There are many people who have been at the centre of this project since its inception.

The core steering committee members provided wisdom and guidance from the early days of the design of the project through to the report editing. The PAC-SMH committee members are Antonio Brieva, Beth Keleher, Vanessa Lam, Alex Piticco, Chris Read, James Rush, Nikki St. Clair and Paul Ward.   

Special thanks go to the support team working to ensure that arrangements were solid and promises kept. The team is Drew Piticco, Project Coordinator; Victoria Lehmann, Executive Assistant to Associate Provost, Students; and Katherine MacLean, Campus Wellness Administrative Assistant.

Alyssa Clarkson provided an invaluable contribution by ensuring timely communications about PAC-SMH, and Lance Chase offered much-needed technical assistance for events and meetings.

We wish to give a special thank you to Jennifer McCorriston and Jennifer Gillies for their assistance in completing the qualitative analysis of panel reports and for editing an early version of the final report.