Waterloo is Moving Forward in its Student Mental Health Journey with the Okanagan Charter

Okanagan Charter signing

The University of Waterloo has come together as a stronger community after our community, especially our students, asked for a stronger system in place for mental health about 18 months ago. Since then, we have made strides on many fronts in our journey to strengthen student mental health and wellness supports at our institution.

Thank you to everyone who has made, and continues to make, mental health a priority at Waterloo. The progress that we have made is only possible because of the engagement and passion of our entire community.

Committee on Student Mental Health Forum

Our community’s commitment to student mental health was on full display at the recent Committee on Student Mental Health (CoSMH) Forum. The forum was our opportunity to come together as a community to discuss our progress in implementing the CoSMH Student Mental Health Report’s 36 recommendations.

I am encouraged that we have started or completed the implementation process on nearly half of the recommendations, including investing in the creation of the CoSMH to oversee the implementation of the recommendations. I am thankful to Professor John Hirdes, our chair and member of the Committee on Student Mental Health. We have created a Progress Dashboard on the Mental Health and Wellness website in a concerted effort at transparency during the implementation process of the Committee’s recommendations.

Adopting the Okanagan Charter

The steps taken so far have been purposeful to ensure immediate impact on our community that also continues far into the future. This includes the signing of the Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges at the CoSMH Forum.

Signing and adopting the Okanagan Charter stands as a mark of the University of Waterloo’s commitment to promoting health and wellness in all its forms. This is vital if our entire campus community is to remain a happy, healthy and thriving environment for us to live, learn and work.

The collaborative and inclusive nature of the Charter’s Calls to Action are meant to embed health and wellness into all aspects of campus culture and also engage our community to lead health promotion, action and collaboration locally and globally. The adoption of the Okanagan Charter is more than a symbol of our commitment. It is a call to action to our entire community to engage with one another whether you’re a student, faculty member, staff member or alumni.

We all have a role to play in ending the stigma of mental health and supporting our students whenever they are in need. I encourage everyone to read the Okanagan Charter as it will be a lasting part of the University and our culture of health and wellness.

Progress will continue to be made on implementing the CoSMH’s recommendations until they are complete, but the connection and dedication we have to each other and our community will be a lasting legacy. Make no mistake, we are making the needed steps to bring mental health and wellness deep into our campus culture and it is because of the entire Waterloo community that I know we will grow as a university and succeed.

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