University students experience many kinds of mental health challenges over the course of the academic year, including stress, anxiety, fear of failure, and feelings of isolation. While these experiences are regular, near-universal aspects of life on campus, there is no need for students to process them alone.
With this in mind, a cross-campus steering committee made up of students, faculty, staff, and administrators is hard at work developing the University of Windsor’s first Student Mental Health Strategy.
To solicit input, provost Douglas Kneale reached out to the campus community in September with a question: What is one thing that you would like to see in a UWindsor student mental health strategy?
The responses were illuminating.
Many respondents identified effective strategies they already use to manage mental health challenges — including exercising, purposefully spending time with family and friends, maintaining healthy diets, and practising yoga and other mindfulness activities.
“The responses also told us that we need more, and more strategic, communications and outreach so students are aware of and feel comfortable accessing the services that are already in place,” Dr. Kneale said. “Going forward, proactively raising awareness will be an institutional priority.”
He said he was heartened by the number of students who offered to be part of an eventual solution. These responses reflected the generous and community-oriented nature of Windsor’s students.
The most compelling response came from Jasleen Walia, a master’s student of electrical engineering. Walia argued persuasively that international students face unique stressors which pose meaningful challenges to their mental health. She identified several actionable solutions for better accommodating newcomers to the Canadian university experience — strategies that work equally well for anyone new to university life.
As a token of appreciation for her thoughtful response, she received a brand-new UWindsor hoodie.
For selections from Walia’s response, plus input from this month’s runners up, consult the Office of the Provost’s Question of the Month page: http://www1.uwindsor.ca/provost/question-of-the-month-september-2017
The University’s efforts to better address student mental health are already underway.
In addition to delivering effective mental health services to students via the Student Counselling Centre, the University has embedded dedicated therapists in several faculties, including nursing, graduate studies, law, and most recently, engineering. The University has also made a significant commitment to expanding in- and out-of-class peer mentoring programs at both the institutional and faculty levels.
In the coming months, the University will improve programs and services to enable students, staff, and faculty to access a range of co-ordinated wellness amenities on campus. In time, the campus community can expect more flexible, easily navigable access pathways, including several online and external programs, says Kneale.
He says he is particularly excited about welcoming a full-time mental health wellness co-ordinator to the campus in the coming weeks.
The Question of the Month response website includes a more comprehensive list of the steps the University it taking to address these concerns.