Dan Vena is a generous and considerate instructor. He is very understanding of student stresses and that not every student is comfortable engaging in some class content. He is open and flexible, making every student feel welcome and at ease.
For me, mental health is deeply linked to one's spiritual well-being as a person. This means a holistic understanding of the body-mind connection, and an appreciation of how we are connected to our larger surroundings in nature, culture, society, etc. It also means challenging how we work and live under neoliberal, capitalist structures, and reimagining our social value structures.
I believe it is important for educators to create classroom communities that champion well-being over merit-based achievements. For me, this means establishing an empathetic connection with students that reassures them that they are going to be heard when they need to express concern or need for support. As I see it, learning to ask for help and understanding your limits/boundaries as a person is integral and part of the educational experience university ought to provide. Furthermore, educators have the opportunity to teach students that health, wellness, and compassion are central to social relations and that these values should be cultivated to support better world-building at large.
Much of my approach to mental health in the classroom has been informed by my own struggles with mental health and physical limitations, as well as listening to others who have generously shared their own experiences with me. Additionally, a lot of my learning on classroom communities has been inspired by Lindsay Brant's teachings on Indigenous pedagogies, and the seminars provided by the CTL team on universal design. It is important to remember that when we support our students in their mental health, we also must work towards supporting decolonial, anti-racist, queer-trans-feminist, disability and neurodivergent-centred projects.
--- Dr. Dan Vena