It has been a year filled with extraordinary challenges, stress, anxiety and difficult decisions none of us thought we’d have to make. Not a day has gone by that I have not thought about the safety of our University of Waterloo community, and top of mind has been our community’s mental health. Many of us have dealt with and continue to deal with sleepless nights brought on by worry and apprehension – I know I have.
Now is the time for us to come together. Now is the time for us to look out for one another. Now is the time to thrive.
You are not alone
This week is Thrive Week at the University of Waterloo. Thrive Week is not just about discussing mental health and wellness in an effort to de-stigmatize mental health but to also remind one another that while we may be physically apart more than we would typically be, you are not alone.
The University of Waterloo community has shown over the past several months how dedicated we are to the health and safety of ourselves and those around us by wearing masks, washing our hands and keeping our distance from one another. More than ever we need to take this same dedication and apply it to mental health and wellness.
Thrive Week is promoting a number of activities and events to help impart tips and strategies to cope with mental health challenges, but also on how to support those around us going through a difficult time. Seeing those around us struggle is never easy. We must be willing and ready to reach out and ask if our friends, colleagues or peers need help or simply someone to talk to. The smallest of gestures can make the biggest of differences.
Committee on Student Mental Health efforts continue
Thrive Week is also an excellent time to reflect on the progress we’ve made as an institution in completing the 36 recommendations laid out in the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health (PAC-SMH) Report. As of September 2020, 89 per cent of the PAC-SMH’s Report recommendations are either complete or in progress, with 61 per cent now completed thanks to the collective effort of the implementation focused Committee on Student Mental Health and countless other community members.
There is no doubt that we have made progress as an institution, but our journey is not complete, and nor will it be complete once we fulfill each of these recommendations. Mental health is a journey that will take the collective efforts of the University community and administration for years to come and that was part of the impetus to sign the Okanagan Charter in November 2018. Mental health awareness and consideration must be part of our decision-making process no matter how big or small the situation.
There is no room for going backward on mental health.
Mental health and wellness in the age of COVID-19
I encourage each of you to take a moment to reflect on your own mental health and the journey you’ve taken over the past several months and beyond. Reflect on the bright spots and also the not so bright. Recognize the challenges you’ve faced, those you’ve overcome and those you continue to face. There is no doubt that COVID-19 and the ongoing global pandemic will create stresses in the weeks and months to come.
From childcare to family, work and school obligations, all of these stresses will only become more pronounced. If you are feeling these pressures: reach out. If you see someone in need: reach out. Please do not be afraid to reach out for help or to help others.
Please stay safe and stay well, Warriors. Warriors protect Warriors and right now we need each other more than ever.