A campus conversation on mental health

Further to my earlier message, I want to acknowledge that when the members of our university community suffer the kind of heartbreaking loss that we did this week, we are all affected.

When tragedies like this happen, the University’s main concern first and foremost is the student’s family. We do not take lightly our obligation to ensure that they have been informed and do our utmost to respect their wishes. The University always reaches out to the families to offer any support they need. This is a very sad duty, but must be done, even though it is very difficult.

This week’s event has spurred a lot of discussion about mental health and well-being and what we can do to support people who are struggling. Similar conversations are taking place at universities and in communities across our country. This is not a situation that is unique to Waterloo. Mental health issues and access to mental health services are affecting a wide portion of our society.

In co-operation with students the University has done much to increase the mental health resources available. They now include 22 full-time counsellors, two psychiatrists, a mental health nurse and peer support groups in addition to the more than 25 health centre professionals who themselves address mental health issues on a routine basis. We understand that more needs to be done.

I have met with students and heard from faculty. I anticipate receiving an online petition, and numerous discussions are taking place in traditional and social media. This conversation requires many voices.

We need to provide leadership and find solutions that are specific to Waterloo. Moving forward, we expect to hear more from faculty, staff, alumni and especially students on what more we can do to support people who may be struggling with mental health issues. These efforts are already underway and will need to include input from all of us. 

While we don’t yet know exactly what these conversations will look like, or what their outcome will be, I think we can all agree that they need to happen.

It is important to remember and reflect on what has happened as well as to focus on the things we can do together.

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