I write this during a trying time for our world and for our community. It has been nearly a year since our everyday routine became anything but routine. The ordinary has made way for a “new normal” that certainly is not normal. The added stresses, responsibilities and isolation have weighed heavily on us all. Because of this, this year’s Bell Let’s Talk Day has taken on a new level of importance.
Taking the time to step back
I’ve heard from so many in our community – students, faculty, staff and alumni alike – over the past year about the challenges of their day-to-day work and balancing everyday life from childcare to the impacts of increased isolation, distance from extended family and the sheer mental pressures of what is happening in the world. It is daunting and we as a community need to recognize that it is okay to not feel okay.
Recognizing and accepting that each of us are going through situations uniquely and that it’s okay to feel the mental health pressures and not feel shame in that is vital. We need each other, we need our community, now more than ever. We need to spark conversations that lead us to share if we are not doing okay and that when we hear the word “fine” from a friend or co-worker that doesn’t mean everything is okay.
It is also okay to reach out to our colleagues, professors and friends and share when life is getting to be too much. It’s okay to take the time to step back. Resiliency that allows us to thrive isn’t about pushing through difficult situations. Resiliency, instead, is about adapting and changing routines and situations that are not working in order to grow. That can mean taking a break when you need it the most.
Progress is important but our work never ends
As we take today to add a little extra level of awareness to mental health and wellness across our community and our nation, let us remember that the importance of mental health awareness, goes far beyond this day. The need to reach out for support and having those supports in place is essential.
We have made strides to do just that at Waterloo over the past two years. Through the consistent work of the Committee on Student Mental Health, led by Professor John Hirdes, we have now implemented 75 percent of the 36 recommendations the President’s Advisory Committee put forth in their report. The additional 25 percent of the recommendations are in progress in various forms.
This progress is no small effort. Just as Bell Let’s Talk Day is a single day on the calendar, we will continue to push forward raising awareness for mental health and wellness, fostering a welcoming culture and building the systems and supports our students, faculty and staff need to thrive in our changing world.
As we reflect today on mental health in any way, try reaching out to just one person to see how they’re doing or share how you are feeling too. Then try it again tomorrow, next week and next month. Mental health doesn’t take a day off, and neither should we.
Be safe and be well, Warriors.