Taylor always makes sure her office in the Ban Righ Centre is open for all mature, female students. She is open to listen to you on your bad days, good days, and even your worst days. She creates a relaxed and welcoming space for students to share their concerns and worries without judgment. She advocates for self-care, such as the importance of sleep as a student. She uses people's names when speaking and makes everyone feel valued regardless of their origin or education level. Taylor celebrates the good things people are doing and helps them for their success if needed. She is a very friendly, highly welcoming, and encouraging person who creates a positive space for everyone.
To me mental health is related to your psychological and cognitive functioning. It is closely tied to one's psychological wellness although I do not consider good mental health to be associated abstractly with mental ability. In referring to mental health and in recognizing that health fluctuates and changes over time, I try to focus on mental wellness and the work of being mentally well. Everyone has mental health (whether poor mental health or good mental health), so I lean less on the term of "health" and more on the term of "wellness" to focus on the work of being well.
My experiences as a student and staff member at Queen’s, helps to shape my practice in supporting student mental health and wellness. Most of us find it difficult to talk about our experiences or reach out for help when we are struggling. To me, having a listening, non-judgmental ear is paramount in supporting students’ mental health. This can be taking a few moments to connect, or to laugh, or to hold space when life becomes overwhelming. Students are encouraged to “persevere” through many stressful years of study. Unfortunately, the message of ‘perseverance’ can normalize harmful coping strategies and worsen the stigma around mental illness. For me, focusing on mental wellness looks like showing care (showing up) when you can. To hold space for difficult emotions, without negation or dismissal, is a recognition (and the acceptance) of vulnerability. I strive to create spaces where the students I work with feel safe to be their vulnerable selves. Sometimes that looks like sitting in my office and crying it out, and sometimes, we create space while completing a puzzle. From remembering a student’s program or research area to connecting to a similar experience, my hope is that in fostering connection with students, I can work to make less alienating the difficulties of being a student while managing mental wellness.
--- Taylor Cenac