Campus Policies and Practices

Recommendation #1:

  • The University should facilitate a wellness and mental health analysis when new academic programming is proposed.
  • The University should develop a mental health framework for use when writing new, or reviewing existing, policies and procedures.

Accommodation Policies and Recourse Procedures

Recommendation #2:

  • Equip AccessAbility Services with the capacity to review mental health-related accommodation requests on campus, while maintaining the confidentiality of the student.

Recommendation #3:

  • Develop a centralized physical and online system for submitting Verification of Illness Forms that notifies all students’ instructors while maintaining confidentiality of students’ medical conditions and history.

Recommendation #4:

  • The University should develop proper recourse mechanisms for students who allege staff or faculty have violated an approved accommodation request related to mental health.

Academic Policies and Practices

Recommendation #5:

  • Strike a working group that recommends implementable best practices around exam and evaluations with a wellness viewpoint in mind. This includes but is not limited to:
    • Final exam schedules and availability of the exam schedule during the course enrollment period.
    • Weighting and overall number and type of evaluation/assessment in courses.
    • A more efficient system for deferred exams.
    • Confidentiality around communication of grades to students to ensure practices aren’t promoting an unhealthy competitive environment (e.g. rankings).

Recommendation #6:

  • Academic programs should review for unnecessary stress those sequences in which students acquire their first co-op position in the second term. The PAC-SMH recommends that a committee be struck to investigate how to reduce the stress levels associated with this sequence.

Recommendation #7:

  • Consider universal instructional design as a valuable perspective that can be used to improve course delivery. Consider a collaborative effort between CTE and faculties to include universal instructional design in existing and new courses.
  • Develop an online resource to record good practices for embedding universal instructional design and mental wellness into teaching.

Openness and Transparency

Recommendation #8:

  • Openly communicate the process the University undertakes when communicating about student deaths on campus.

Recommendation #9:

Develop a protocol to include community partners when communicating adverse events that involve a member of the community, while ensuring that support services are available to those impacted by the event.

Inclusive and Supportive Campus Culture

Shared Responsibility Amongst All Community Members for Wellness

Recommendation #10:

  • All academic programs and student service departments should include peer mentorship activities in the delivery of their mission for the purpose of:
    • Improving the frequency of connection and collaboration between students, faculty and staff.
    • Developing a greater sense of belonging and community at Waterloo for all students.
    • Increasing cross-campus support and advocacy for student wellness.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Considerations Regarding Student Wellness

Recommendation #11:

  • A committee should be struck to develop and implement a cultural competency strategy for the University regarding health promotion and student wellness. The committee would review campus policies, procedures and practices in consideration of race, ethnicity, faith, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomic status.

Faculty and Staff Roles

Recommendation #12:

  • Expand the range of options for students who are having challenges in interactions with their supervisors or instructors. For example, consider the model of an ombudsperson employed at some institutions with functions such as support, advocacy, and tracking data/patterns.

Intentional Design and Planning of Student Space

Recommendation #13:

  • Identify and implement University facilities and infrastructure standards and best practices into the design, planning, and rejuvenation activities for all campus physical spaces to promote and enhance student wellness and supportive learning environments.

Mental Health Awareness and Communication

Reducing Stigma

Recommendation #14:  

  • Open a continuous dialogue with students, staff, faculty, and the wider community about mental health and well-being, including online forums for discussion of:
    • Prevention of mental health issues and promotion of mental health-care strategies.
    • Suicide prevention. 
    • Impact of trauma and sexual violence. 
    • Effects of racial injustice. 
    • Effects of transphobia. 
    • Harm reduction approaches to substance use.

Curriculum Availability

Recommendation #15:  

  • Encourage faculty to integrate curriculum focused on mental health, resilience, and support resources and to develop courses in ways that promote mental wellness.

Mental Health Training

Recommendation #16:

  • Support the professional development of faculty, including the following:
    • Explore ways to share existing best practices between instructors on an ongoing basis, particularly in an online format.
    • Encourage faculty involvement in teaching-related professional development by recognizing these efforts in their merit reviews. Go beyond numbers generated by the student survey. Acknowledge and value up-to-date course assessments, participation in CTE workshops, and pedagogical conferences.

Recommendation #17:

  • Ensure that faculty have appropriate and timely information to support students, through the following means:
    • Make mental health training part of the on-boarding process for new faculty.
    • Strongly encourage mental health training in existing faculty.
    • Provide clear guidelines to instructors regarding who they can contact when they have concerns about a student’s welfare, even if he or she does not yet require interventions.

Recommendation #18:

  • The Sexual Violence Response Coordinator should provide training related to sexual violence to other healthcare workers on campus.

Information About Resources

Recommendation #19:

  • Develop an integrated marketing and communications plan to inform students about all the available support options, including the following:
    • Implement opt-in information sharing and transition programming during orientation for incoming students living with mental illness.
    • Create a centrally maintained database of available supports for students. Allow on-campus departments to contribute their own initiatives.

Recommendation #20:

  • Make information and resources about mental health easy to find, including but not limited to the following:
    • Implement one platform to access services and supports.
    • Develop a comprehensive list of peer supports on campus and provide opportunities for knowledge sharing.
    • Enhance existing peer support resources.
    • Clearly describe available mental health resources in the Region.

Prevention and Early Intervention

Recommendation #21:

  • Develop a campus-wide training program in resiliency.
    • Ensure that a common definition of resiliency is used across all program delivery platforms and training providers.

Recommendation #22:  

  • Implement a comprehensive education and training strategy to increase mental health literacy among students, staff, and faculty. Create situational mental health training based on role and/or faculty and make it available to all.
    • Ensure training is offered for receptionists and student staff who may deal with students struggling with mental illness and suicidal ideation. Invest in a dedicated full-time resource for mental health training.
  • Invest in a dedicated full-time resource for mental health training.
  • Stagger or reiterate orientation presentations throughout the year.
  • Encourage capacity building through a train-the-trainer approach.
  • Ensure all staff and faculty are aware of the supports for students that already exist both on campus and off campus and what to do in case of an emergency or when they suspect a student is in need of additional support.
  • Distribute the Do You Need Help poster detailing what people should do in particular situations to all Waterloo campuses, faculties, schools, departments, etc. so they know where to find help in the event of a crisis.

Self-Assessment and Digital Applications as Early Intervention

Recommendation #23:

  • Use research on best practices and review opportunities for self-assessment/self-management and early intervention through digital applications.

Coordination of Peer-to-Peer Activities

Recommendation #24:

  • Assess the current level of coordination of peer support networks. Create a mechanism for coordination and knowledge sharing.

Mental Health and Harm Reduction

Recommendation #25:

  • University of Waterloo should join the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction Postsecondary Education Partnership — Alcohol Harms, a partnership that other universities across Canada have joined. It focuses on:
    • Reducing harm associated with drugs and alcohol.
    • Developing an institutional implementation and measurement plan based off the framework.

Training and Education Programs

Recommendation #26:

  • Develop new training programs in the following areas:
    • How parents can support their students.
    • Strategies to prevent sexual violence.
    • Bystander intervention training in orientation leader training.

Service Access and Delivery

Human Resources

Recommendation #27:

  • Review staffing practices and plans in Counselling Services, with an emphasis on the following:
    • An external review to determine whether a recent reorganization, as well as the existing on-call system, has achieved its purpose.
    • Investigate the utility of embedding counsellors within each faculty and residence.
    • Within cost constraints, implement the recommended ratio of 1 counsellor/psychologist FTE for every 1,000 students (36.67 FTE), taking into account counsellor leave and other absences. Further, ensure there are additional resources to meet increased demand during peak periods (e.g. exam time).

Services for Disproportionately Affected Students

Recommendation #28:  

  • Invest in training and research for underserved/ disproportionately affected populations.
    • Ensure counsellor training is kept up to date and relevant to student needs (with a specific focus on cultural competence).
    • Conduct a climate survey on the experience and perception of supports specifically designed to meet needs of international students.

Extended Health Care Funding

Recommendation #29:

  • Update and promote available funding for mental health services on and off campus.
    • In light of the recent government change in funding of prescription drugs, use any surplus from the Student Health Plan toward mental health (including off-campus services).
    • Inform students about the funding and services available to receive mental health services off-campus.
    • Review the feasibility of funding a 24/7 service providing counselling by telephone, video-counselling, or internet-based counselling.
    • Review the need for expanding services on campus relating to substance abuse.

Recommendation #30:

  • Mental health supports and resources for student’s off-campus (e.g. international placements, co-op placements) should be developed and the level of support available should be clearly communicated.

Community Partnerships

Recommendation #31:  

  • Engage with off-campus mental health services and community partners (e.g. Connectivity KW4 and Here 24/7) to better support students, particularly during peak times.
    • Develop a protocol to connect students from an on-campus wellness service to an off-campus service (e.g. have a Campus Wellness staff member connect via phone directly with an off-campus service provider with the student present to arrange ongoing/additional supports).
    • Organize outreach sessions with local community partners (e.g. high school teachers) to explore innovative ways to serve student mental health needs.

Services for Individuals with Complex Needs

Recommendation #32:

  • Tailor the level of mental and physical health care provision to the needs of the individual.
    • Continue to develop a complex care team to respond to students with more complex mental health issues.

Continue to develop and implement a stepped-care approach within Health Services and Counselling Services.

Summary/Broad Recommendations

Implementation Committee

Recommendation #33:

  • A committee should be established to oversee implementation of the recommendations of this report, as well as to provide consistent feedback and advice regarding the strengths and limitations of the University response to the mental health and wellness of students. In the Implementation Committee's early deliberations, the PAC-SMH recommends that the committee determine priorities and classify proposed actions based on what is needed from the University (e.g. statement of commitment, financial commitment, human resources, standing committee, or working group) to move forward.
  • Make the full collection of recommendations, strategies, and ideas brought forward through the PAC-SMH process to the implementation committee for ongoing consideration.

Adoption of the Okanagan Charter

Recommendation #34:

  • Undertake a full adoption and promotion of the Charter. A significant transition for the University will be the movement from a perspective in which mental health and wellness is the responsibility of a few professionals to an environment in which a healthy campus becomes the business of all stakeholders. The Okanagan Charter affords an opportunity to support this transition.

Research on Student Mental Health and Wellness

Recommendation #35:

  • Further exploration of the development of a research institute or speciality area in student mental health and wellness. It was evident that there is a strong base of expertise relevant to the topic of student mental health in our institution, including researchers in Applied Health Sciences faculty and the Centre for Mental Health Research (Psychology). There are some examples of institutions that have marshalled this expertise to create a research institute dedicated to addressing questions that are, so far, difficult to answer. These might relate to our population of students, to the range of service options, or the most effective promotion, prevention and intervention options.

Provincial Advocacy

Recommendation #36:

  • The PAC-SMH recommends University of Waterloo endorse and actively advocate to the provincial government, using its government affairs/relations apparatus, to implement the 26 recommendations in the In It Together report. The report and its recommendations outline sector-wide consensus of the role of the provincial government has to play in order to address mental health concerns in post-secondary campuses.