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Dillon Hall

September 2017

What we asked:

Welcome or Welcome Back to the University of Windsor! The Fall term is always such an exciting time – so full of promise and expectation about the year ahead. But it can also be a stressful time, maybe a little overwhelming at first, with so much that’s new and different and challenging. We want it to be an awesome experience for you, and we are here to help.

The University of Windsor is developing its first comprehensive Student Mental Health strategy. Over the coming weeks you will be hearing more about it, and we will be seeking input from you and many others across campus.

The Steering Committee for this strategy has six working groups made up of students, staff, faculty, and administrators responsible for generating ideas on policies and procedures; campus environment; awareness raising; early identification; skill development; and service & supports. Our student researchers have been working hard over the summer to look at best practices at other universities and to develop some initial recommendations for UWindsor.

We would like to hear from you on what you think the priorities of a student mental health and wellness strategy should be.

So, the Provost’s Question of the Month for September 2017 was:

What is one thing that you would like to see in a UWindsor student mental health strategy?

Here’s what we heard: 

Jasleen Walia, an Electrical Engineering Master’s student, wrote about services and resources that could address the particular challenges international students face, but which could also help all students new to the University environment. Here is part of what she said:

I have been actively reading these helpful articles posted by you since I became a part of the University last year. As the articles touch on several items each time, I will list a few relevant ones. The second and third are my personal favourites, and the first one is the need of the hour. So according to me, this month's agenda should be:

  1. Focusing on newcomers as they are new to the university ambience/culture. They should be given tips on how to be mentally prepared to study at a higher level. Videos and small write ups regarding how to balance studies, work, family, and friends can be a great aid. Resources and links explaining how to cope with the stress they encounter when they find studies hard would be useful. Moreover, motivational lectures could be provided encouraging students to keep trying and not give up.
  2. I have never read about how to combat the deadliest feeling of homesickness. Issues like how to find a job at a new place, how to mix in a new culture, how to balance studies, work, family, and friends haunt you. So, there should be articles and videos on how to deal with homesickness, particularly for international students, who are new to the country and for students who are utterly new to the university and the city itself. The articles and videos should focus on motivating these students to be brave enough to face this struggle, not be disheartened, and most importantly, not give up midway. They should also teach about the secret of being positive at this time. These videos would help the students at large, both domestic and international.
  3. Also, there should be tips on how to cook quick food. What I feel is missing is that previous videos just told about local cuisine. Instead, we can try to be innovative this time and focus on 4-5 different cuisines and quick ways to make them. The selection can be made on the basis of the nationalities which are more in number on campus.

What others said:

Students experience many kinds of mental health challenges on campus – most often, stress, anxiety, fear of failure, and feeling isolated. But many of you also identified a lot of strategies you already use to manage those challenges – from exercise, to time with family, to healthy diets, yoga and other mindfulness activities, and just taking time out to do things with friends. Many noted how challenging it is to maintain a healthy sense of balance as assignments and other responsibilities make demands on your time, and suggested campaigns reminding students to make balance a priority and inviting them to take part in these activities throughout the year.

Several of you identified resources whose services you’ve appreciated, including departments and programs that have supported mental health goals, such as:

However, others who were seeking these kinds of services had not found them even though they exist. A key message we heard from you, therefore, was that we need more, and more strategic, communications and outreach so students know what’s available and they feel comfortable accessing those services. Among the many ideas you submitted for raising awareness:

  • More time to talk to people who listen, rather than workshops or resource materials
  • More proactive efforts to reach out to students, from simply showing up to talk, to campus-wide activities and awareness campaigns
  • More opportunities just to talk, face-to-face
  • Add awareness in classes to encourage students to access programs and services on campus
  • Workshops on how peers can help peers on mental health issues
  • Programs to help faculty and staff respond to students and to proactively support mental health initiatives

You also suggested strategies to make access easier:

  • More flexible service hours
  • Anonymous online booking
  • Access to mental health supports in more buildings on campus
  • More technological approaches to outreach, including access to online chat and counselling services, stress management and reflection apps
  • Access to help in multiple languages
  • More opportunities to take part in stress-reducing activities together in different locations on campus – like yoga, colouring, meditation, exercise…. More fun!

Some suggested structural changes that might help, such as brighter classrooms, or integrated assessment and exam scheduling so that evaluation of students in a given program could be more intentionally spread out across the semester.

Other students noted that specific groups – such as first-year students, international students, students from Indigenous communities, older students, or students with eating disorders – might require approaches and services that differ from those of traditional university students.

One key thing was how many students offered to be part of the solution – once again, your answers showed the generous and community-oriented nature of Windsor’s students.

 

Here’s what we’re doing:

  1. The University provides mental health services to students in a variety of different ways.  The Student Counselling Centre on campus is the central hub for students seeking mental health support. In addition, to improve accessibility of services, there are a number of embedded therapists in a number of faculties including: Nursing, Graduate Studies, Law, and most recently Engineering.
  2. In recent years, we’ve been working create more flexible student access to support through a variety of online and external services, including:
    • Welltrack:We brought this program onto campus last year and it provides on-line skill building to deal with common issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress.  These are self-directed learning modules where students can log-in and learn coping skills to deal with common mental health issues that may arise while they are in university.  This is free to all students and can be accessed by simply logging into mywelltrack.com with a uwindsor email or different email and using the access code WINDSOR
    • KeepmeSafe – 24/7 support for international students:  This initiative is directly aimed at providing mental health support to the international student population.  The Keep Me Safe program will provide phone, chat, and video support for ALL University of Windsor international students in over 30 different languages that they can access 24/7 via their phone or computers.  We hope to be rolling this program out by November of this year. 
    • Good2Talk (English and French, 24/7/365) 1-866-925-5454: is a telephone help-line provided by the Ontario government for all postsecondary students. It is staffed by Master’s level clinical therapists who are there to talk to students who may be struggling with any variety of mental health issues. 
  3. Another exciting initiative is the creation of a Mental Health Wellness Coordinator.  This person will be responsible for developing and implementing mental health wellness and prevention programs aimed at helping students before they get overwhelmed or go into crisis.  We hope to have this person hired in the next few weeks and their focus over the coming year will be with the Faculty of Engineering.

  4. At the University level, and in Faculties across campus, both in and out of class peer mentoring programs offer support on a range of topics, from academics to social life to work opportunities. Among those programs:While each of these has its own specific focus and approach, they’re all a good place to start looking for advice and connection.
  5. Development of a comprehensive University of Windsor Student Mental Health Strategy is underway, with the goal of fostering a thriving University that actively promotes mental wellbeing and supports students to flourish in both their personal and professional lives. A cross-campus team made up of students, faculty, and staff has undertaken a review of current services on campus and best practices elsewhere, and is now working on an overall plan to improve programs and services for students, and enable all community members to access a range of coordinated wellness services on campus. This team has already jump started the kinds of conversations about mental health we’re having on campus– the final Strategy will outline more specific initiatives and approaches to increasing access and awareness.
  6. Further links to mental health services at the University and in the Windsor-Essex Region.