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Petra Fachinger



Department of English

People Directory Affiliation Category

Professor Fachinger supports mental health beyond expectation. She is a compassionate listener, who is just as interested in the class material as she is in her students' wellbeing. Professor Fachinger's kindness is exemplary. She is extremely accommodating and empowering. She believes in her students' abilities and does whatever she can to help you reach your fullest potential.

Anonymous Student

In my classes on climate crisis literature, racism, and the impact of intergenerational trauma as discussed in Indigenous literatures, mental health becomes a central topic. While classes that address emotionally challenging subject matter provide opportunities to destigmatize mental health, they also risk triggering students. I strive to create a supportive and respectful learning environment, in which I draw students’ attention to white middle-class privilege including my own. In a course dealing with representations of emotional pain, it is also important to avoid further stereotyping. When teaching literature that discusses anti-Indigenous violence, for example, I attempt to balance trauma narratives with the joyfulness of Indigenous cultural production by introducing students to Indigenous musicians and songwriters, whose songs we listen to at the beginning of class. As someone teaching literature, I am also in a position to promote the mental health benefits of reading fiction and poetry, which include reducing stress and providing opportunities for connection and compassion. Narratives about crises, emotional and otherwise, have a particular role to play in that they give students the tools to live with uncertainty in our chaotic world.

I believe that universities need to make mental health literacy training a priority. Student services and teaching faculty need to work more closely and constructively together to enhance student mental wellbeing. While reaching out to students, advising them on resources, providing them with accommodations, and referring them to student support services go a long way. Ultimately, we need to make sure that students know that we are listening to them and take their concerns seriously.

--- Dr. Petra Fachinger