Committee on Student Mental Health Implementation Update

Earlier this year, we took important steps to transform the support we provide to students who are dealing with mental health challenges while also creating conditions that support the mental health of all students.

Implementing recommendations contained in the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH) report, we increased the number of mental health personnel available to students on campus. I also appointed Professor John Hirdes to lead a committee to look at how and when we could implement the rest of the PAC-SMH report recommendations.

Protocol in the event of the death of a student

At our open house at Fed Hall in March, I made a commitment to transparency as we develop a plan to implement the Committee’s recommendations. That’s why I am publishing a new guideline today on the University of Waterloo’s protocol in the event of a death of a student. This fulfils the PAC-SMH report’s recommendation #8.

Without question, we are a community of colleagues and peers who truly care about one another. The death of any one of our students is painful beyond measure and it touches many people on campus and in the broader community.

We are a campus that is involved in the pursuit of knowledge and truth every single day. When somebody dies, my first instinct is to ask: why? In particular if someone dies by suicide our caring and inquisitive community wants to know what it could have done better to help that person. I know this is what lies beneath your calls for change.

I believe our first duty of care is to our students and their family members during the most trying of times. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child. I believe this protocol reflects our commitment to transparency while fully respecting the rights of the student, their family and the law.

Committee on Student Mental Health

Under the leadership of Professor John Hirdes, the Committee on Student Mental Health (CoSMH) is beginning to make progress on the other recommendations contained in the PAC-SMH report.

The CoSMH has also made important progress in prioritizing the remaining recommendations based on:

  • prevalence of the issue in how broadly it affects students,
  • magnitude of expected impact on student mental health, and
  • modifiability (i.e. time frame required for change, likelihood of change being realized).

We want to do things that have the biggest impact now and into the future because student wellness is very important to all of us.

The CoSMH’s short-term priorities include work to adopt the Okanagan Charter and to continue to enhance mental health training and services, with long-term goals like resilience campaigns, identification of teaching approaches and the growth of social support networks.

It is my goal, and that of the CoSMH, to complete the implementation of the majority of the 36 recommendations by the end of 2019. Important progress toward implementing those recommendations has already been made through the efforts of CoSMH, Campus Wellness and other stakeholders across campus.

Resources and next steps

We have continued to add resources to our campus wellness team with seven new full-time employees hired in recent months. These employees include mental health nurses, case managers, counsellors and psychologists. The new, seven members of the Campus Wellness team have all been hired. They are ready and prepared to better serve our current and incoming class of students. These additions are making an immediate impact in meeting the report’s recommendation of one mental health support worker for every 1000 students.

To continue the positive dialogue and collaboration on student mental health issues, I have also asked Professor Hirdes to host a mental health open house in the fall as the work of the committee continues. Please watch for information on this open house event when the Fall term begins in September.

We must continue to act to ensure that we provide the support necessary for anyone who is dealing with mental health challenges and be proactive about creating a campus environment and culture that fosters positive mental health. We are doing so. With that in mind, if you are you in crisis, feeling unsafe, or worried you might hurt yourself or others, please contact any of the providers below to get the help you need.

For students:

For employees:

  • Employee and Family Assistance Provider (Homewood Health) - 1-800-663-1142
  • Occupational Health - Linda Brogden at ext. 36264 or Karen Parkinson at ext. 30338
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