Champions for Mental Health

Educators and staff members play a strong role in supporting and advancing student mental health. The Champions for Mental Health program is a student-led initiative, responding to both student feedback and clear research calling for increased mental health promotion in academics, in addition to other campus environments.

Toolkit for Educators - Thriving in the Classroom

Champions for Mental Health recognizes and celebrates educators & staff members who create supportive environments where student mental health is valued and supported.

The Champions for Mental Health project aligns with the Queen's Campus Wellbeing Framework. The framework's goal is to encourage and support an inclusive culture of wellbeing that inspires and enables all who live, learn, and work at Queen's to thrive.

Winter 2022 Champions

Superstar Champions for Mental Health, 2022

Superstar Champions are individuals who were named Classroom Champions for Mental Health earlier in 2022 who have been re-nominated in the Spring 2022. Thank you for your ongoing commitment to supporting student mental health!

View the profiles of these Superstar Champions from their earlier awards.

  • Laurie Gedcke-Kerr - Assistant Professor, Nursing
     
  • Dr. Kate Rowbotham - Professor, Smith School of Business
     
  • Dr. Kyla Tienhaara - Professor, Environmental Studies
     
  • Dr. Dan Vena - Professor, Film & Media

 

Champions for Mental Health - Spring 2022

We are thrilled to announce that these educators and staff members have been named Champions for Mental Health. The following includes words from each nominator plus thoughts from the Champions regarding student mental health, including how they create supportive spaces on campus, show compassion, encourage a sense of belonging, inspire health-promoting behaviours and support all aspects of student mental health. Thank you Champions for Mental Health!

Brigitte Bachmann

Professor, Language, Literatures and Cultures

Brigitte is committed to creating a safe space for her students at all times. In my 1st year, I was going through a difficult situation in my personal life causing a drop in my mental health. Brigitte took notice of this and dedicated her office hours to teaching me 1 on 1 lessons that I missed so I wouldn't fall behind. To this day she still checks in on me. Brigitte is a compassionate and caring person that always puts her students' mental health above all. She has a huge heart and has always made an effort to check in even after the term is over. She is a professor that I will truly never forget.

Anonymous

As mental health is often misunderstood, I find it very important to educate oneself to be able to recognize mental health issues, which can adversely affect one's ability to function. It is very important to be surrounded by people, who understand those sensitivities. In universities these would mainly be the educators, as they are directly involved with the students.

I think letting students know that making mistakes is part of the learning process, and has nothing to do with failure, helps them to build up their self-confidence. Also, the fact that they know that I am available for questions (emails), helps building an educator/student relationship, which may open the door for more personal conversation, if needed. Here I have to add, that I am of a certain age, which can provide students a sense of confidence in someone who is more mature in their approach to a particular issue. 

Mental health issues have always been part of my life, so I automatically observe my student's behaviours, which is easier done in small classes. If I have the impression, that students are having mental health problems, I invite them to my office to talk about the reasons of the behavioural or performance changes, I had noticed. At that moment it is very important to mainly listen, and then ask if help would be welcomed. Offering help is delicate. Respectfully, I try to ask the student, what help they think, might be needed. This often results in a plan, we would work out together to move forward.

I have noticed over the past several year particularly, that mental health issues have become more prominent. It requires us, as educators to be more understanding.

Valerie Bartlett

Professor, Smith School of Business

Dr. Bartlett always spends a few minutes in class to check up on our mental health status and how we were feeling and encourages us to reach out if we ever needed someone to talk to. I went through some things in my personal life which causes me to struggle academically. I emailed and went to her office hours to re-check my understanding of the lectures I missed, and she was really empathetic towards me and patiently walked me through the course concepts. She always double-checks with us during stressful academic seasons to see if more time on assignments is needed. During tough periods in the pandemic, she would check in with us and let us know she was aware of the stress we were experiencing and asked if more time on our take-home final essay will be helpful.

Anonymous

We all have mental health just like we all have physical health! Sometimes we're "healthy" and other times we're not. We need to remember that mental health is an important part of our overall health and not something to be ashamed of or shy away from talking about.

I encourage my students to reflect, think about how they're doing from a mental health perspective and most importantly to take action! If they need a mental health day then take one, just as we would if we were physically unwell. I also think it's important to view mental health on a continuum. Some days we'll be healthy, others less healthy which may very well be normal either due to the context of our life at that time. When students start having more bad days than good this may be an indication that something is amiss and that they may need additional support to move back to the healthy zone of mental health. By talking openly about mental health, helping students to view it as a continuum, that it's normal to have bad days when we're stressed with exams or other things, and that we have agency and choices in how to deal with it, I believe that we can all be healthier and happier.

Kristen Bolton

Professor, Nursing

As a nursing student, going to clinicals can be really daunting. I was always anxious and on edge. However, KB made the whole experience really fun and constantly encouraged me to continue learning and explore everything my placement had in store for me. I remember before having KB as my instructor, I was really scared of my other instructors, and I found myself getting panic attacks the night before my shifts. On my 1st day of clinicals I was stiff and uptight she came to me to help me loosen up. I always felt like she was there and ready to support me, and she always tried to understand the nerves I had and would always give me words of encouragement. This provided a sense of security, especially in an environment where I felt scared sometimes. I feel like she truly makes an environment where her students feel valued and supported.

Anonymous

Mental health to me means so much more than just how we feel on a daily basis. I see it as a continuum that is constantly shifting for every human being even if we aren't always aware. 

Clinical practice in the nursing program can be a very intimidating experience. There is a true vulnerability about being a student and working with patients at their sickest. To support students mental health, I strive to instill a psychologically safe environment. In order to foster cooperative relationships with my students so that we can trust one another, I build into my orientation discussing core values and fears that students may have. Things are going to happen in the clinical setting that are going to be difficult for everyone, students and teachers alike. It's our role as educators to create a safe learning environment and this means working with the students to do so. 

I think it is important to remind students that everyone struggles and that we are all human. I try to encourage students to reflect on how much effort goes into maintaining physical health and that often we forget that the same should be put towards our mental health as well. I hope to always continue speaking openly about this topic in the classroom and clinical setting in hopes that I can help break the stigma about mental health that still exists.

Julie Bomba

Professor, Health Sciences

Julie is one of the most supportive instructors that I have ever had during my time at Queen's. She prioritizes mental wellbeing and wants you to be successful in every regard. During my time working with her I had a tough time in this rotation and had intense levels of anxiety and stress, she helped me gain more confidence in the clinical setting and be successful in the course. Julie is understanding and always takes time to check in after tough days.

Anonymous

Mental health involves supporting the whole person. I believe we all need to take care of ourselves first to be capable to build a career as a caregiver. For me this means getting enough sleep, exercise, and bringing my sense of humour into the game every day! 

Supporting student mental health is of utmost importance for educators. Students are under extreme levels of stress and pressure during nursing school. If they present to clinical with a maxed out cognitive capacity due to their stress levels, their learning is negatively impacted. In my experience, providing an environment that openly fosters mental wellness student's are able to build their confidence and competence in the clinical setting. This confidence enables them to see themselves as nurses capable of great things in their careers!

Paul Bowman

Staff, Smith School of Business

Paul is supportive of my well-being and is always encouraging me when I feel down. He's provided me with lots of helpful advice relating to my career and made me feel I was good enough to find my dream job. As someone who experiences a lot of self-doubt and stress from my program, I always feel calm after talking to him about my problems.

Anonymous

When I think of mental health, the concept that comes to mind is "engagement." I think mental health means we are engaged with all elements of our lives. It doesn't mean that things are easy or smooth or without challenge. Rather, it means we have the resourcefulness and resilience to be engaged in life across various elements including academics, work, family, community etc.

I thinks it's fundamental that staff and educators remind themselves to look beyond their particular lens and endeavour to see students across the context of their broader lives. We have a temptation to only look within the parameters of our specific function or area of expertise. As a career coach, my interaction with students not only encompasses their specific career-related questions and concerns, but situates these with the larger context of the student's life that includes academics, social life, family etc. 

It's great to see more attention and emphasis on mental health across campus.  It's important we work together as a community to reduce stigma and encourage people to reach out for assistance and support.  It's also important that we all continue to advocate for additional resources and services. 

Dr. Jenn Carpenter

Professor, Emergency Medicine, Public Health, BHSc

Dr. Carpenter made a significant effort to accommodate all students this year in light of the pandemic. She truly cares for the students she instructs and puts health and wellbeing above all else. Dr. Carpenter's class is a welcoming environment whereby students will partake in self-directed learning regarding topics of personal interest.

Anonymous

Mental Health is an overall sense of wellbeing. It requires balance, resilience, and reflection that are developed through life-long practice. It can certainly be fostered through inquiry and exhilaration about one's studies under optimal circumstances.  

When this avenue for wellness is hindered by the stress of perceived failures, it can snowball for the learner and affect both their mental health and their ability to succeed in their studies. It is a priority for my teaching team to reach out and support learners that are behind, both to help them succeed in the course, but also to find ways to rediscover their grounding.  

It has been a very disruptive 2 years for learners and instructors. Striving for empathy and compassion, while attempting to foster resilience and accountability is a tightrope that we must walk together. Our learners are the leaders of the future. Supporting them to find their grounding and resilience is just as important as the academic knowledge that we endeavor to share with them.  

Fatima Couto

Clinic Manager, Student Wellness Services

Fatima supports student well-being and positive mental health by being a strong, compassionate advocate for both her colleagues and the students they serve. Fatima is a master juggler of so many things, always keeping the well-being of students at the heart of all decisions and approaches. Fatima's office often becomes a safe refuge for students in distress. Her kindness, warmth and wealth of information help to compassionately and calmly guide students to referrals and resources.

Anonymous

Mental health means many things in different ways for many people. Seeing someone individually for who they are and the troubles they may be facing. Listening and offer empathy and support. 

Everyone goes through some mental health difficulties and we need to all be provided respect and support.

Kim Day

Staff, Young Alumini

Kim has done above and beyond her duties as a QSAA staff advisor to not only promote wellness within queens but also to challenge us to be the best we can be. She is always advocating for our mental health when we feel stretched too thin. She takes the time to check in on me on a regular basis and always creates a welcoming environment. Overall, Kim has advanced my knowledge, understanding and preparedness for life as an alumni, which I strongly believe is one of the most caring and supportive avenues of mental health well-being that a staff or educator could help foster.

Anonymous

Mental Health means being able to sort through what might be a "bad day" from what might be a bigger problem lasting weeks and months at a time.  Overall health means paying attention to not only your physical well being, but emotional state of mind and practicing kindness and self care with oneself. Also, recognizing when to ask for support.

I think the first step in supporting students with their mental health is simply asking them " how are you doing" on a regular basis. Listening is super important and recognizing changes in their behavior. If they are overly apologetic it sometimes indicates that they are experiencing pressure overload. I always check in with the students because i want them to know that it's ok, if at the moment you are having problems juggling it all. I always try to put the students at ease and allow them to share their challenges and offer to sort things out together. It's also very ok to take the necessary breaks to enable self care and reinforce that it is a very smart thing to do and not viewed as a failure. 

I think the motto "do your best" is not appreciated enough and success looks like a lot of different things. We need to continue to talk openly and honestly about the importance of maintaining good mental health and encourage the dialogue with students. 

Jo-ann Ferreira

Manager, Student Wellness Services

Throughout the support group she was a fantastic listener and provided advice that truly changed my life. She helped me recognize that my mental illness does not control me and cheered me on in my victories. She is truly a phenomenal person and counsellor.

Anonymous

Mental health can mean having the capacity to manage life's ups and downs and may look different for each person at different times of their lives. It could also include having resources both internally and externally to draw upon in harder times. It may vary from coping with high stress and just getting through, to experiencing joy and flourishing.

As the person overseeing many of the Groups offered at Student Wellness, I support students health and wellbeing by creating opportunities for student's to feel a sense of safety, belonging and community inside of these groups. This is especially important for marginalized students. Feeling like you are not alone and not the only one who struggles with a particular issue can be so healing.

Andrew Hall

Professor, Psychology

Andrew is empathetic, compassionate, communicative, caring and supportive. Last semester my mental health hit a drastic low, knowing this Andrew was very supportive and understanding which allowed me to become more successful in my thesis. He never made me feel as if I were a burden and was always checking in to see if I needed extra support. Andrew goes the extra mile to make sure his students succeed and it truly makes a difference.

Anonymous

Mental health is being kind to yourself. Taking care of your mental health is to practice forgiving yourself for any shortcomings you experience and turning every set back into an opportunity for self-improvement.

I have had the pleasure of being a Graduate TA for courses at both ends of a Psychology student's journey. Each experience has taught me about the different constraints placed on student mental health. Overwhelmingly, the best way to start supporting student mental health is by listening to how different constraints affect students in the course. Removing barriers to success in a course creates an equitable space for students to learn and self-improve in an environment that fosters positive mental health and resilience to new challenges. Barriers are not always class-wide, meaning that it is sometime important to listen and respond to student concerns on a case-by-case basis. No matter how small or insignificant they may perceived issues to be, I always encourage student to come forward with difficulties that they face. Not only does it promote positive mental health - it also creates a good rapport with the student so that they get the most out of the course while also understanding that I (and often my teaching team) are here to see them succeed.

Dr. Geoffrey Hall

Professor, Environmental Studies

Geof is always checking in with his students and is super supportive and understanding when students are going through a rough time. He creates a welcoming classroom to allow everyone to freely share and ask questions. Geof has incredible stories that make learning material more fun.

Anonymous

For me, mental health is part of the human experience and makes us all who we all are. It is just as important as other aspects of our health and must be carefully protected. It is as much a part of our creativity as well as our challenges.

I believe that everyone in a class I teach is important, and should have the opportunity to experience the course as fully as possible. The class must be a completely safe space for all participants. For me, this begins with setting the stage for a respectful and positive environment. In addition, at the beginning of each term I ask that each student come to me if they have concerns or find they are having difficulties in the class. I try to make it clear that they are never going to be bothering me or wasting my time, as I know that can be a perceived reason which causes many individuals to not voice their concerns or difficulties they may be experiencing. This is both from a course content point of view and a general mental health perspective, as I believe the two feed directly into one another. I re-iterate this regularly throughout the term in the hopes that I can work with a student at the earliest point if they are struggling.  Finally, I do check-ins during the term, and ask the students to take some time separately to holistically assess where they are in the course, from their well-being to their learning.  If there is support I can give from an academic point of view, I will work with the students to achieve the best possible outcome for their learning. If I can direct a student to mental health supports available at Queen's, I will do so whenever possible.

Emily Hartley

Staff, Smith School of Business

Emily is absolutely one of my greatest supporters during my entire time at Queen's. As my Academic Advisor, she has gone above and beyond her obligations. In my 1st year, I had to re-adjust my courses and entire academic plan due to a major mental health crisis and Emily was nothing by supportive through this. She helped me manage all my academic concerns, helped rearrange and reassure me about my plans, and she spoke to me with such kindness and concern that I can confidently say she was a supporting factor in saving my life. When a professor reached out to her regarding my absence in a few classes Emily reached out to me letting me know she was there for me and hoping I was okay and safe. When speaking to her I truly felt like she cared, after our sessions, she would check in on me throughout the year and point me towards useful resources.

Anonymous

Mental health is a component of overall wellbeing and contributes to our ability to thrive and actively participate within our various communities.

As educators and staff, I believe we are here to support students and help them achieve their academic goals. I appreciate the various struggles and pressures students face and how this impacts their mental health and overall wellbeing. I also recognize their resiliency and strengths and am in constant awe of their accomplishments. Part of supporting mental health is celebrating these wins, both big and small!

Supporting student mental health also means asking thoughtful questions, listening with compassion, connecting students to other helpful resources, and genuinely caring about the outcome. We should provide space and flexibility for students to prioritize their wellbeing and help them navigate the ever-changing path to success, focusing on what success means to them. Creativity, analytical thinking, and learning can flourish when we support student mental health.

Laurie Hooke

Mental Health Counsellor, Student Wellness Services

Laurie always sees the possibility for a student to function better and she never shies away from doing the work to help a student get there. She makes it her business to know all the pathways to support that a student might need, and she is tenacious at nudging students along those pathways. I trust Laurie not just to help her students do better, but she helps all of us do better too. She never lets anyone give up!

Anonymous

Mental and Physical health are the basis for functioning, connection, and success. Without wellness in both these areas we are essentially on a different playing field than everyone else, and we need support to help get back on the field with our peers. 

I offer crisis support via Student Wellness Services. Ensuring students get the support that they need and assist in advocating. Collaborate with Physicians, Psychiatry, Counselling, external resources, and faculties/professors. Faculties and professors play a major role in assisting a student  move through a difficult moment, and it is extremely appreciated when they are willing to work in collaboration to help a student succeed.  

Although Student Wellness Services is small, we are mighty! We do the best we can with what we have and we advocate heavily for students experiencing Mental and Physical health crisis. With the pandemic we are seeing an influx of individuals who are very negatively impacted, and we continue to see the impact that the pandemic has had. We don't want people to feel as if they need to manage/deal with all this on their own, we are not taught to deal with this type of impact and I encourage people to reach out. You don't have to suffer or walk through the hard stuff alone.

Megan Ingram

Teaching Assistant, Sociology

Megan went above and beyond in our classroom. She was very understanding of everyone and never judged someone based on their academic skills or potential late assignments. Megan personally scheduled a call with me just to check up; followed by multiple emails making sure I was doing okay and helping me with term work.

Anonymous

Mental health is not only your own personal mental being and state of wellness, but is bound up with all of the social relationships and structural factors that make a life. For this reason, mental health is one of the key building blocks of a positive learning environment, because you cannot learn or flourish if you're not supported as an expansive and varied human being in the classroom!

From my own experience, I know how absolutely crucial positive teachers and mentors are to mental health, as some of the folks who have been there in my most difficult times (even if they didn't know it) were teachers. For me, this means acknowledging that the classroom and course is just one small sliver of a student's life that I have little to no knowledge of and working to help them understand that school, and especially grades, are not the end all be all. Understanding myself as learning alongside my students and encouraging them to seek out what fulfills them and to take care of themselves, rather than just churn out grades, is a major part of this. I want students to know that they don't have to disclose all of what is going on for them in order to advocate for themselves and have someone in their corner. They deserve privacy as much as they deserve care and support. 

Much of my approach to mental health is informed by my own experience with mental illness, neurodivergence, and disability as well as learning from the incredible folks across my life who have helped me to understand Mad pride and disability justice in expansive ways. For this reason, it is important to remember those structural elements of mental health, and to recognize that supporting students is not an individual project, but a smaller piece of broader movements towards disability justice, decolonization, anti-racism, and queer-trans-feminist liberation within academia. Relationality across structures, movements, and lives is key, and so building a supportive relationship with our students and pedagogy is the first step.

Kelsey Jacobson

Professor, Drama & Music

Kelsey has worked tirelessly to give her students a stable classroom environment with a constant encouraging attitude we could count on. She starts her classes with a list of reminders of upcoming deadlines to ensure students don't forget which we all found extremely helpful. I had a very difficult 1st semester with circumstances out of my control that prevented me from performing at my best. After knowing this Kelsey was very understanding and provided immediate consideration allowing me time to recover and come back at my best for 2nd semester. I feel comfortable talking to her and know she has my best interest at heart.

Anonymous

Supporting my students; mental health is of utmost importance to me; the best learning environment is one in which everyone feels respected, valued, and able to succeed. Some of the courses I teach deal with difficult subject matter, and it is important to me that students can feel uncomfortable and challenged by new ideas without feeling unsafe. I don't know that I've figured out how exactly to do this, but it's something I continue to work towards.

In my teaching, I try to be transparent, open, and honest: I like to think that if students can 'see' the pedagogy behind the way I've chosen content and crafted syllabi and assignments, they can better engage with the material and organize their time and energy. I want to encourage students to actively think about how they are learning alongside what they are learning.

Part of this means also reminding students that they are people, not grades, and that their well-being as humans comes before everything else. Getting to know my students as individuals and not numbers helps me feel more connected to the class, too. 

While I always encourage students to come to me with any concerns or issues so that I can connect them with campus resources, I also advocate for students to be experts of their own lives, choosing to take extensions with no questions asked, complete assignments in the formats that best serve them, and participate in class in ways that feel challenging but doable. 

I feel privileged to teach the students that I do, who help collaboratively create a supportive environment for us all.

Dr. Kerim Kartal

Professor, History

I was going through a really tough time this semester and Professor Kartal was very understanding and supportive of my situation. Aside from accommodating my situation, we had a long conversation in which he reassured me and encouraged me to push forward. He's emphatic and genuine when he listens to you. One of the best professors I've had so far in my undergrad.

Anonymous

"The death of a beloved one, a break-up, or anything that upsets us hurts the soul as much as an accident hurts the body". I wish I could remember who said this so I could give credit to the person, but this quote sums up the importance of mental health for me. In other words, mental health is as important as physical health although we tend to overlook this, due not only to stigmatization, but also the latency of its development in the Western world compared that of the to physical health.

I humanize everything I teach. How? I don't see teaching as a mechanical process in which students are merely the recipients of the data I pass onto them, but I see my courses as a stage in the lives of students which they experience as humans. Therefore, just as in any other stage in life they will take lessons, but "on the side", they will see the beautiful and the ugly face of life, be it sharing memorable moments with beloved ones, or losing one of them. When? Just as they are taking my course. So, I consider my teaching and their learning process holistically, i.e. not as an isolated experience, but one during which they will experience many other things.

Another part of the humanizing process is to look like a human while teaching. I do that by smiling at my students, owning up to my mistakes, so that when they make their own, they won't think that this uber-human professor is a robot immune to making mistakes. Also, I complain about the 8:30 AM classes; I dislike them. Why? Because a human likes and dislikes things, a robot doesn't. 

While going over the requirements of any assignment, I tell my students that they should let me know if they experience mental or physical health issues, and I make sure to accommodate their needs. To me, a student making an effort to submit an assignment after the deadline is better than one that ghosts and does not put any effort in it. Lastly, accommodating their needs is bigger than asking for accommodation letters. You got to be in the right mind to find out how to get that letter, do it, and follow up. Sometimes humans feel so bad that they can't even get themselves a glass of water, let aside reading and digesting chunks of information. Also, can we always get official documentation for everything? For instance, does anyone issue death certificates for pets? I don't believe so, thus we have to trust what students say when they talk to us, rather than see them as potential liars who are trying to get a few extra days because they are lazy.

Educators should always keep in mind that students will remember them, not just what they teach. To leave a good impact on students, we need to look like and act like a human, not a super-knowledgeable robot. They can obtain knowledge from Google, but they can't learn humanity from it. Even Siri wouldn't know. Cheers!

Jayson Killoran

Professor, Smith School of Business

Jay is one of the friendliest professors I have met and he is always open to talk to students about their struggles. He dedicates a portion of his class to remind students he is open if anyone needs to reach out and provides a positive lesson at the end of each class to remind students to do something healthy or an activity that will benefit our mental health.

Anonymous

Mental health to me means that nobody feels alone or hopeless. It means that every person feels supported and has access to a friendly and caring resource whenever they need. Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness, but rather the presence of cognitive and emotional wellbeing, which needs to be carefully and actively reinforced on a daily basis. In my experience, I have found that mental health is not a singular state that can be achieved by a rigid sequence of actions and thoughts; mental health is a complex process that is unique to every one of us, and needs to be cultivated and prioritized as much as our physical wellbeing.

Mental health is a fragile process. A simple event or remark from someone close can trigger panic, stress and mental health degradation, therefore, we should never assume that the presence of mental wellbeing is persistent. It can be present in one moment, and crushed quickly in the next.

As an university educator, I end each of my classes with a lesson of the day to try to inspire students, validate any stressors they may be experiencing, and reinforce my willingness to help. Some lessons of the day are simple reminders to smile, sing and laugh, reach out to friends and family when we feel low, be kind to ourselves, and to take pleasure in the little moments of every day. Other lessons of the day include the value of persistence, the replenishing benefits of taking breaks and getting fresh air, and the importance of choosing your network wisely. A simple lesson to end off each class reminds students that I care about them, and that their lives and wellbeing are more important than any grade in a class, so they should never sacrifice mental or physical wellbeing.

Finally, I provide my student with weekly emails to reinforce the key content from the past week, reaffirm their progress, and remind them to take care of themselves and of one another. These weekly emails are fairly lengthy, so many students might not take the time to read them, but the ones who do have told me how much they appreciate the weekly check-in and reminder to prioritize their wellbeing ahead of academic obligations. All educators need to be mindful that students are humans first and students second. Teaching our students content is important, but supporting their human wellbeing is most important.

Over the past two years of the pandemic, each one of us has experienced some degree of stress, anxiety, or crisis in some form or another, and the effects are lingering and pervasive. It is important to recognize the struggles that every single one of us faces, some of which are more explicit and visible, while others are fighting their own battles internally or in private. These private battles are often the more difficult ones, not necessarily because the obstacle is greater, but generally because we tend to be alone, and it can be harder to lean on others for support. Too often we hide our internal struggles because we feel embarrassed, or we don't want to inconvenience other people, or we just might not want others knowing about whatever hardship we are facing. It is harder to recognize internal signs of pain, stress and depression without clear signs for help. People are really good at putting on a smiling face even when they are experiencing an ongoing internal crisis, which makes it almost impossible to know when to reach out for help.

My recommendation for this: reach out anyway. Reach out often. We often ask each other. "How's it going?", but after someone replies with the baseline "Good", try to dig deeper if you have a gut feeling something might be off. We have pretty good intuition when someone is feeling off or different than usual, so don't dismiss this crosses your mind. Give the person a hug. Or a pat on the back. Even just a big smile and a nod. Often we have no idea how much of a difference a good smile and genuine eye contact can make when someone is in crisis, so I strongly encourage everyone to smile often and let others know you care about them. We might just save a life. 

Nic Kinghill

Staff, Smith School of Business

Nic has always encouraged people to reach out to student health supports if needed when going through a difficult moment. I really appreciated his care and kindness and feel he deserves this award. He is incredibly kind, and always willing to help you with anything you need. He's who you go to when you need answers!

Anonymous

Mental health is a reflection of how we feel and colours how we see and navigate the world around us. It is our vessel and guide for interpreting and intra-acting.

Being empathetic, present, taking an interest, listening, and confidently offering potential avenues to consider while respecting someone's decision or feelings are all things I try to actively practice to support others. Educators and Staff play a tremendous role in supporting student mental health. Due to the inherent power-imbalance and nature of our relationships with students, it is essential we are easy-to-approach, kind, empathetic, and understanding individuals in order to get students to even feel comfortable enough to reach out and let you know when they are experiencing difficulties. Without students feeling they can confidentially speak to you about mental health problems, there is no supportive environment.

So many faculty and staff are in similar situations or have had previous experiences. So many faculty staff are supportive and will help guide or assist you however they can. Don't stop yourself from reaching out or asking for some help if you need it - everyone would want you to get the support you need rather than staying silent. Remember, we are all a part of the university community and we must do our best to look out and care for one another.

Matthew Leybourne

Professor, Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering

Matthew is relaxed with deadlines and is willing to move quiz dates if the class feels overwhelmed with other classes/commitments. He is a very caring and understanding person, especially when it comes to someone's mental health situation. Instead of putting you down about it, he empathizes, which is really important to me in a professor.

Anonymous

Mental health to me means the recognition that we all struggle with internal conflict and that this expresses itself as a variety of phenomena including self-doubt, loss of joy in the moment, withdrawal, and lack of productivity.

I think the main role for faculty is to recognize that students undergo mental health struggles and to provide appropriate accommodations, formal and informal, to alleviate the stress that comes with mental health issues. Directing students to appropriate resources is also key.

Dr. Arcan Nalca

Professor, Smith School of Business

Arcan is supportive, thoughtful, gracious and helpful. I felt as though my perspective was not only seen, but valued, and my opinions truly were taken into account. Speaking to him felt like a very safe and comfortable thing to do, and I felt as though he really, genuinely cared about me as a person. When I apologized for bringing multiple things up to him, he told me he was so glad that I brought my concerns to him and encouraged me to keep doing so if I ran into anything in the future, which made me feel truly valued rather than a problem that needs solving. He also was sure to follow up with me and assured me that he, as well as others, were there as supports anytime I needed them.

Anonymous

Well-being. It is a state of health and therefore becomes the basis of one's relationship with life including oneself, other beings, and nature. Unfortunately, that basis is not always supportive and that is why it is critical for us to care about mental health. 

I try to let them share as much or as little as they want to. That conversation is a fact-finding exercise but without too many questions. I  remind myself to avoid fixing, diagnosing or second guess their situation. I try to listen carefully to what they tell and talk about self-care. And the most important is to remind them of my own limits and offer them help in seeking professional support and provide information.

I wish more of us were to actively think about making 'good' choices instead of focusing on the 'right' choices only. Unfortunately, I mostly become aware of a student's mental health challenges when it affects performance in the class. The easy way out is to remind students about their responsibilities. At the end of the day, I have a course to deliver or a project to complete. But I do not think that mindset helps anyone. I try to remind myself that they did not ask, plan, or desire to be in the situation that they are in. I do not believe that anyone would want that. So I try to ask "how can I help" in this particular situation. 

Meghan Norris

Professor, Psychology

Meghan is always friendly, never judging, always attends to the class and addresses concerns/fears quickly.

Anonymous

Mental health is multifaceted! A gauge that I use for my own mental health is how I handle regular daily tasks. If I find myself getting frustrated with account log-ins, scrolling too much on social media, or not enjoying my favourite song on the radio, it's a cue for me that I need to slow down and check in. With the lock-downs over the pandemic, I've also learned that I really need regular exercise for my mental health‚ when I'm not able to exercise and move in ways that are fun for me, I tend to notice that those repeated log-ins feel more annoying than they should, and other things start to slip.

This is a tough one‚ educators have a challenging task of ensuring that courses and programs are designed to meet certain learning goals, while also integrating an understanding that students (and educators!) are experiencing unique circumstances coming into the classroom. Ensuring that curriculum needs are delivered in the right ways for the people in a classroom at a given point in time is an active process, and I definitely do not always get it right. I try to design courses with flexibility built in ahead of time wherever possible, and also check in with students so that I can adapt in the moment wherever possible. Checking in with students helps in terms of understanding student needs, and is also one of the joys of teaching! I am also grateful that Queen's has a tremendous community dedicated to education with experts in a variety of roles across units. Education is a team sport, and I am grateful for teams with students, instructors, administrators, and staff where we connect with one another regarding our educational spaces and practices with the shared goal of having a truly exceptional learning experience. 

You matter, and I am really glad that you are part of this community! 

Dr. Thomas Rotter

Professor, Nursing

Dr. Rotter is conscientious about student welfare. He organizes one-to-one sessions with students to help alleviate their anxiety. He stays connected with students on zoom and by email. Above all Dr. Rotter believes in the potential of every student. Dr. Rotter understands that school life can be challenging and is always very accommodating.

Anonymous

I am an Associate Professor and a Psychiatric Nurse trained in Germany. For me, mental health and wellbeing are paramount for the success of our students. The current Covid pandemic has accelerated the need for a compassionate teaching approach and understanding the specific needs of our Nursing students during this challenging time. Also, I have lived experience with mental ill-health and the stigma associated with mental disorders in Canada.

Ben Seewald

Alumni Relations & Annual Giving

Ben has been nothing but supportive during my time with the QSAA. He leads by example - by making sure we feel supported and that someone at the University truly cares about the students they interact with. Not only has he fostered an environment at the QSAA that makes everyone feel comfortable to come to him with anything that might be going on - but he also makes sure he is following up on his promises. I know I can go to him with anything, no matter how big or small - and I have, and he has been there for me.

Anonymous

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

I try to commit to listening without judgement and only offering advise or solutions when asked. Educators and staff play an essential role in supporting and enhancing student mental health and wellbeing, the same as everyone in their network (friends, family, faculty.) It is only when a student feels supported and safe can they fully thrive.

Lydia Skulstad

Intercultural Academic Support Coordinator, Student Academic Success Services and Queen's University International Centre

Lydia provides many resources and programs for improving a student's quality of life such as podcasts, write nights and speak-up. She is very supportive and knowledgeable in the international environment and multi-disciplinary working set.

Anonymous

For me, mental health means being connected to myself, with my thoughts and feelings, and being connected to others, with my actions and relationships. This means taking the time to be attune to my needs, and what I can give to others professionally and personally. It also means knowing when to seek support and engaging in the lifelong process of learning and healing through strategies for, and making choices around, coping with stress and pain.   

In my role as Intercultural Academic Support Coordinator, I support student mental health with programs and resources that help develop awareness around assumptions, expectations, and choice-making. Transitioning to new academic environments can involve navigating hidden assumptions and expectations about learning and academic skills, and the hiddenness of these assumptions and expectations can be disruptive to academic success and wellbeing. Through programs like the podcast, International Voices at Queen's, and the Academic Connections Certificate, you can hear from students who have navigated academic culture shock, engage explicitly with academic expectations, and learn about resources that can support your success and wellbeing. Additionally, I co-facilitate workshops like Write Nights and Speak Up where we empower students to have more confidence when making choices in their academic work. Educators and staff support students by listening to and learning with them, and thereby developing and offering informed programs, services, and classes. However, educators and staff must advocate for the university system to evolve and change so that all students are given equitable opportunities and access to resources for wellness and thriving. 
 

Mary Smith

Professor, Nursing

Mary always completes check-in with us and is very willing to figure out ways to support our mental health. Whether that is giving the entire class extensions for papers or just by making herself available to chat after class. One of the most genuine professors I've had. Very approachable and easy to talk to!

Anonymous

Mental health is everything! Without mental, emotional and spiritual balance, our physical form eventually suffers and life becomes meaningless.  

Students' mental health must be prioritized otherwise it is not possible to succeed and thrive. Providing opportunities to reflect and discuss in open but safe spaces is critical within learning environments. Reflection also mean thinking about how we are doing personally and what are a few things we can do now at this very moment to feel better. Maybe this means deep breathing exercises, walking outside within the trees or getting together with close friends or family to laugh or share in heart to heart conversations. The activities that help ourselves when we know we are beginning to feel overwhelmed (very common during the pandemic) need to be front and centre so it is possible to get through the rough times and put things into perspective.

Putting yourself first is not selfish! So do not feel guilty because when you take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically you are maintaining balance so that you can successfully complete your studies. This is the recipe needed to succeed not only through whatever course you are taking but life.

Dr. Jeremy Stewart

Professor, Psychology

I am a research student in Dr. Stewart's lab. He always ensures he creates a safe place to allow you to talk about your mental health and well-being. He makes it known to his students that he is always available to provide support and is extremely accommodating. I reached out to him when I was in a dark place despite not knowing him very well but the few encounters I did have with him made me feel like he was someone I could trust. Through these past years, he's always made himself available to talk/listen despite his busy schedule. He makes it apparent that the wellness of his students is a priority and I really don't know if I would be the person I am today without his support.

Anonymous

I think mental health is a cornerstone of our well-being. Despite this, many of us do not or cannot give our mental health the attention it deserves. For those who cannot, the barriers are often contextual and driven by systems that do not appropriately address inequity. I want to live in a community that not only promotes mental health by making relevant information and services available, but where people also work consistently to create an environment where more people can attend to their mental health. 

I think we have a long way to go. Too often, the time and resources necessary to bolster mental health are treated like luxuries, rather than basic human rights.

I think that, as educators, we have the bandwidth to be flexible with how we organize course design and assessment. I think we can use that flexibility to be as responsive as possible to student circumstances, while maintaining fairness. Experiencing symptoms of mood and anxiety disorders, struggling with substance use issues, managing impulsive behaviours, having thoughts of suicide - all of these are things that become more common in young adulthood (relative to childhood) and they are examples of what many students in our classes are dealing with while also focusing on their education. When we're made aware that a student is faced with a challenging period or with mental health symptoms, I believe we should make our best effort to adjust the aspects of the course we can so that our students can put forth their best effort.

I also think that, as instructors, we can consider the impacts our course content can have on student well-being. Many topics in my field (Clinical Psychology) can be deeply personal for students, and can bring on memories or strong emotions in some cases. Creating a transparent learning environment (e.g., detail about topics that will be discussed in advance of lessons) and encouraging students' decision-making around how they will interact with the content are approaches that I use and that I think help promote safe and supportive class environments.

I am immensely grateful to work with undergraduate and graduate student members of my research team. I have learned so much from them. Over the years, many have been forthcoming about aspects of their lived experiences with mental health; this input has left indelible impacts on how the lab designs and conducts its research studies, and how we mentor junior psychological scientists.

Dr. Laura van Staalduinen

Professor, Health Sciences

Dr. Staalduinen always starts her class asking how everyone is doing and genuinely cares about the answers of her students. She also always reminds us to take time to take care of ourselves and put our mental well-being and health first. She's very understanding and always willing to help where she can and very open to making accommodations, especially during times of high stress. Dr. Staalduinen reminds us to look at the positive and is never afraid to admit to making mistakes and doesn't make a big deal about them which helps students like me accept my own mistakes without stressing about them.

Anonymous

To me, mental health encompasses our emotions, thoughts and feelings, and affects everything we do. Good mental health provides a foundation that makes stress and difficult situations more manageable. When we neglect our mental health, everything gets harder. As with our physical health, I believe that we also need to check in and maintain our mental health not only when things are bad but on a daily basis to maintain our mental fitness.

Personally, I am still learning about mental health and how to support learners. One of the ways I try to support student mental health is to start the term by admitting to this and that I am imperfect too. I then like to start each by checking in with how students are doing, either with a poll or a casual question, and respond to any trends that pop up if I am able. I also am available if students need someone to talk to.

I also do my best to give timelines in advance, but also check in as deadlines approach in case students are being hit with multiple large assessments on the same day. If I can fairly adjust deadlines for the class and relieve some pressure, I am happy to do so.

Students deal with a lot that can impact their mental health. They are under a lot of pressure, and in my experience their mental health becomes low priority. For many University is the most exciting time of their lives, but it can also be very isolating. In order for students to get the most out of their education I strongly believe that we must make student mental health a priority, and continue to work to break the stigma surrounding the topic.

Carlie Visser

Professor, History

Professor Carlie Visser was extremely helpful and encouraging during my time in her class. She offered me guidance and understanding throughout my struggles. She did not question why I needed help, nor degrade or belittle me. She empowered me to continue to strive for excellence and that is exactly the kind of support that mental health requires. A little kindness goes an exceptionally long way.

Anonymous

When students ask for help I do my best to provide it. As a grad student and instructor I get that we are all just out here doing our best. I work  to create a safe and supportive atmosphere for my students and remember that they have lives and commitments outside of my class. I try to hold space for the messiness of life and remember that kindness and compassion go a long way.

April Wallace

Staff, Smith School of Business

April goes above and beyond to create a support system for the Smith MSc & Ph.D. students. She's invited speakers to town halls to talk about mental health and provide tools/tips to help us manage stress. As next-generation researchers & instructors, it's important that courses taught by us support student wellbeing, and April realizes the importance of positive mental health and EDII. She listens to our feedback and has even scheduled a debrief lecture after a controversially perceived guest lecture, where she'd address concerns and provide ways that encourage a more inclusive classroom. Not only is she a proud advocate for positive changes around the school, but she has also personally taken an active interest in being the change through her actions. Meeting with April has been one of the best decisions I've made in the last couple of months. She took the time to listen to me, was respectful, caring, and made me feel heard and valued as a PhD student at Smith.

Anonymous

Encouraging positive mental health with students ensures that we are providing an optimal learning environment for our students whereby they can bring their best selves to our graduate programs. 

During the pandemic, we have observed an increase of student mental health concerns, particularly related to working in isolation which is amplified for graduate students. Encouraging students and reaching out to check in and let them know you are an individual who is approachable and open to having conversations about mental health can be significant for students who may be suffering in silence. I believe that emphasizing the importance of consistency and investing in our mental health is a critical message for students to hear, particularly during stressful times. Students sometimes reach out to have one-on-one conversations, which during the pandemic has been particularly important to create community and connection when so many of us are experiencing isolation. I have advocated for students to have access to their student offices to allow for the opportunity to get out of their home environment to reduce the impact of isolation. As we transition back to in-person activities, my focus has been on creating events to assist with students feel connected to our program, which in turn can create opportunities for positive social interactions that have been lacking during the pandemic. 

Lisa Webb

Student Advisor/Program Planner, Ban Righ Centre

Lisa is such a kind-hearted and loving person. I was having a really tough time in November with mental health and financial issues. She was quickly there to answer any questions and suggest supportive accommodation. Lisa values each and every one of her students' well-being and mental health. If it wasn't for her, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. She's absolutely amazing.

Anonymous

To me, mental health means having access and the ability to make use of resources and skills, whether internal and/or external that allow us to cope with the challenges we face.

Most often, supporting mental health for me, looks like helping people to connect and/or re-connect with their own abilities and with the relations in their lives who are allies and who can provide care and support.

Being a student comes with academic challenges of course, but it is often also a time of great personal 'stretching' and as students, we are not always prepared for that. As such, student mental health is not static and so it is important that we all have easy access to various opportunities for compassionate support at all times.