Advisory Committee on Mental Health and Wellness Formed

March 03, 2014 - Campus Bulletin

A new advisory committee at the University of Guelph is intended to create and sustain a campus environment that fosters mental health and well-being, says Brenda Whiteside, associate vice-president (student affairs).

By evaluating current mental health programming on campus, the advisory committee on mental health and wellness will determine future priorities and find greater opportunities for collaboration within and outside of the University.

The new group will build on existing programs and services for at-risk students, says Whiteside, who will co-chair the committee.

“U of G is recognized for its caring living and learning environment, especially our awareness and support programs,” she says.

“But while many of our programs are seen as best practice, like others in the province we are increasingly concerned about mental health issues on our campus.”

A new Centre for Innovation for Campus Mental Health has been created in Ontario with provincial government funding, Whiteside says. As well, the Council of Ontario Universities has established a working group on campus mental health.

“The range of issues, concerns and challenges is broad and reflective of society as a whole,” Whiteside says. “But post-secondary students are uniquely vulnerable to issues of mental health and wellness.”

University students face the transition from home, expectations of academic success, and personal and cultural pressures. Mental health issues often first appear during university-age years, she says.

The advisory committee will focus on measures that promote an overall healthy campus, Whiteside says. “Currently, we are really good at responding to students’ needs during times of crisis. But we need to be better at finding ways to support them before they reach that point; we want to be proactive rather than reactive.”

Considering trends in mental health issues and best practices, the committee will:

• Promote a healthy, inclusive and supportive environment;
• Raise mental health awareness on campus;
• Support students with mental health challenges;
• Advocate and lead in eradicating stigma and discrimination on campus;
• Develop policies and protocols;
• Identify opportunities for collaboration;
• Develop appropriate metrics for progress reporting; and
• Oversee implementation, sustainability and evaluation processes.

Previously, student mental health issues have been addressed mostly by units within Student Affairs at Guelph.

Serge Desmarais, associate vice-president (academic) and co-chair of the committee, says: “There is an increased desire on the academic side of the house to reflect on systemic opportunities to provide support.”

He added: “This includes consideration of how we structure our semester in terms of examinations as providing support to faculty, staff and students, and how professors identify students in difficulty and direct them to support services.”

The advisory committee will include undergraduate and graduate students, a faculty member, a dean or associate dean, and representatives from Student Housing Services, Counselling and Disability Services, and Wellness Services.

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1