Following the recent tragic loss of one of our students to suicide, I have been moved by our community’s overwhelming offers of support for people suffering from mental health issues.
These offers of assistance continue to come into the University by phone, email, in person and most recently, through a petition outlining ideas on how we can better support those who may be suffering in silence.
As recent events elsewhere in Canada confirm, we are not alone in confronting the issues of mental health and suicide. The struggles, specifically among youth, are present across our country and will continue to require a coordinated effort to address.
To that end, we will endeavour to come together as a community to see what more we can do.
Building on the recent outpouring of support as well as the work of the University of Waterloo’s Student Mental Health Review in 2012, we will be continuing the conversation on how best we can improve access to mental health assistance for people who need it.
Beginning immediately, I will be convening a president’s advisory committee on mental health that will be responsible for guiding a listening process that will seek to gain further input from our local community, other institutions and external experts.
In the coming weeks and months, we can expect to see a series of engagement opportunities designed to collect ideas, comments and concerns from students, faculty, staff and alumni. Starting now, we will increase our public education efforts around youth mental health as we also expand awareness of where, when and how the current services and supports are available.
Engagement opportunities will include a series of open houses staffed by mental health professionals and will provide information about the outreach and services currently available as well as the opportunity to provide feedback in a safe and supportive environment. There will also be the ability to gain information and provide input in an online environment. The task force will report on what they heard, learned and recommend in two stages, with a full report in the fall of 2017.
It is clear from recent events as well as from the experiences of our friends and colleagues across the country that there is a significant interest in continuing to remove the remaining stigma around mental health issues and to ensure that people who need help know where it’s available and feel comfortable asking for it.
For those that may struggle with mental health issues, know that there are many of us who want to reach out to you, to tell you that we support you, and that we are committed to working together to ensure that help is available where and when you need it.
President and Vice-Chancellor