Educators play a strong role in supporting and advancing student mental health. The Classroom Champions in Mental Health program is a student-led initiative, responding to both student feedback and clear research calling for increased mental health promotion in academics.
Classroom Champions in Mental Health recognizes and celebrates professors, instructors and TAs who create supportive learning environments where student mental health is valued and supported.
The Classroom 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.
Thank you, educators, for all you do to create supportive learning spaces, showing compassion, encouraging a sense of belonging, inspiring health-promoting behaviours and supporting all aspects of student mental health!
Educators chosen as Classroom Champions for Winter 2022 are shown below.
Dr. Elizabeth Baisley
Professor, Department Political Studies
During class, Elizabeth Baisley makes sure to remind us that we aren't taking up too much space, that we are allowed to ask questions, and they make sure to acknowledge our mental health. They gave fantastic representation to all LGBTQ+ students and racialized students in their lectures. They are excellent and they make me feel seen, heard, validated and acknowledged. They are equitable in their teaching and make teaching accessible to all students while maintaining breadth and rigour.
To me, mental health is about the parts of health that tend to be ignored by focusing solely on physical health. This includes emotional, psychological, social, and sometimes even spiritual wellbeing.
There is so much to do to address mental health issues, including advocacy within our classrooms, departments, faculties, universities, communities, and provinces. For now, I prioritize changes I can make within my classes. I focus on three broad areas.
First, in terms of workload, I try to make things more manageable for everyone involved, including students, graders, teaching assistants, and even the instructor! This includes being mindful of the amount of time it will take students to consume course content and work on assignments.
Second, I design classes using the principles of universal design for learning. I assume that most or all students will experience short or long-term disabilities, including mental health issues. As much as possible, I design classes to accommodate these circumstances from the start rather than trying to find ad hoc accommodations.
Finally, when it comes to climate, I try to reduce stigma around mental health issues by discussing it from the first day of class and continuing to check in throughout the term.
–Dr. Elizabeth Baisley
Professor, Faculty of Education
Jodi was able to foster a sense of community and togetherness in an auditorium of over 400 students. Jodi placed great emphasis on mental wellness, distinguishing it from mental illness, and offered insights into promoting resilience. She offered numerous practical strategies (with web links and guided materials) to promote mental wellness for both the teacher candidates and their future students.
Anonymous Student, FOUN100
Mental health is our ability to cope with our day-to-day challenges. It consists of our thoughts, feelings, perspectives, strengths, sense of balance, ability to be resilient, and connection to ourselves and others. If our mental health is strong, it does not mean that we will not experience hardships or negative emotions. It just allows us more capacity to navigate those difficult experiences. On the other hand, if we are not feeling well mentally, it may take more effort and energy to overcome our difficulties. It is normal for our mental health and sense of well-being to fluctuate. However, if our individual mental health is consistently moving away from our baseline, it is important to ask ourselves why, and consider what resources would be effective in supporting ourselves.
I support student mental health by providing mental health resources, offering support when appropriate, teaching students how to recognize their own needs, providing a safe space to learn, and encouraging students to make decisions that align with their values. I remind students that their well-being is the priority by outlining ways in which they can care for their mental health and providing strategies so that they can teach others to care for their mental health as well. I also invite students to reach out to me if they need a space to talk or require any specific support.
Educators can support and enhance student mental health by modelling what appropriately caring for their mental health looks like. When appropriate, if educators can be vulnerable and share stories of their personal challenges with their mental health, it allows students to recognize that their emotions are universal and valid. This can, in turn, reduce the stigma associated with talking about mental health. If students do not feel as if they have a safe space to learn, their overall well-being may be diminished, and they may not have the capacity to focus on their studies.
Just as we have a physical immune system, it is important to recognize that we also have a psychological immune system. It is important to be kind to ourselves through the challenges that we will all inevitably face and allow our psychological immune system to do its job. Some days it may feel as if we have more reserve than others and other days it may feel like any challenge will push us over the edge. If we discover what we need on both the good and the bad days, it will be easier to live both presently and authentically.
TA, Department of Public Health Sciences
Paul Boonmak genuinely cares about the mental health of students and does so much to break down stigma. In our 1st tutorial, Paul acknowledged the difficulty of living during a pandemic and how it can impact your mental health and he made it known he was a resource that could be accessed not just for school-related assistance but also as a friend and someone to talk to. He would also consistently do mental health check-ins throughout the semester and really tried to help students feel like they were supported and ease their anxieties. Almost every tutorial he would start with let's take a breath and break down everything into smaller pieces, as well as discuss that it's okay to be feeling anxious right now.
To me, mental health is the ability to be yourself. Having good mental health frees you up to explore, learn, and reach your full potential.
I really do think that every little thing counts when it comes to promoting mental health. You never really know what the person right in front of you is going through, so it's important to me that I provide or show comfort to anyone I interact with--whether that's just asking how they are doing, being there, or just listening. Educators have a larger role in supporting students than we often think we have. From my experience, students want to do well in class and are under a lot of pressure. Most of the time they just want us to acknowledge that we care, and that's what I try to do for every session that I run--whatever small things I do. These things alleviate some of the stresses; and with lower stress, students learn much better.
Not just students, but most people don't realize that there are more people that go through the same stress that they are going through. Start by sharing your stories with people around you--family, friends, etc. and you'll start to learn that we are all going through tough times together. You're never alone!
- Paul Boonmak
Professor, Department of Philosophy
Daphne Brouwer supports student wellbeing and positive mental health by providing students with multiple resources that they can go to in times of need and has also volunteered her own support to help students access resources for the help they need.
Mental health determines everything we do in life. Even when thinking that you are doing fantastic, this still involves mental health. And when not doing so great, it can take over your life in ways that is hard to talk about. Mental health is, however, never an individual thing, and the only way to improve it is by sharing it. It is for this reason that mental health should be recognized more, accepted more, and worked on more. Not only for us as students and educators, but also for us as human beings that are trying to stay alive. One day after another.
Student mental health is one of the most important things here at Queen's University as the institution cannot thrive without students being able to flourish. As educators, it is important to give students opportunities to seek help, to be allowed to speak up, make mistakes, and be given a chance to work on themselves.
In my own role as an educator, it is important to me that students do not see me in a higher position, but rather that they can recognize that we are all humans with our own little quirks. As such, I open up to my students about the basics of my own mental health and open up space for them to reach out if they need to talk (something which they have always done so far). Another huge factor in supporting mental health, that I have been fortunate enough to be able to provide, is bringing in my service dog. During classes, students are given the opportunity to interact with him when he does not need to work, and this has helped many students to relax.
I am proud of each and every student here at Queen's University. You are all going through a lot, and this often goes unrecognized as it is hard to speak up on what is actually going on within yourself. Please speak up when things are not going the way you would like them to go, let Queen's know that we need to set up accommodations that allow for you to retake assignments, give you extensions beyond Covid times, and create spaces in which we can all share our stories.
Dr. Brooke Cameron
Professor, Department of English
Professor Cameron is one of the most accommodating profs I have ever had. Dr. Cameron is very aware of the struggle students go through specifically in high volume work times, constantly asking what we need whether it was more time with assignments or advice on how to structure classes, keeping our mental health in mind. Dr. Cameron creates a judgement-free space for her students. She provides all relevant resources on the OnQ page and her lectures/emails, doesn't shy away from discussing hard topics and reminds us to care for ourselves. Great to see profs who genuinely care about the well-being of their students and want to hear about their successes even outside of her course.
Mental health is an issue about which I care very much. I am still learning about mental health, but I currently understand it to refer to one's mental and emotional well-being, their ability to navigate stressors in work in life as well as their need for support in place to reach desired goals.
I believe in universal course design and support the idea of flexible deadlines to accommodate students' different learning needs as well as unanticipated challenges that may arise and prevent a student from reaching their potential. I also let students' know repeatedly throughout the course that I am available for, and enjoy, help with assignments or general course support. I also check in throughout the course, both through general discussion as well as online forums, to see how the assignment schedule is working and/or if I need to make adjustments to the workload in order to support students during periods of extra stress--to see, for example, if my deadlines conflict with other courses' and/or if there is a way I can better "scaffold" or build upon prior assignments.
We, as educators, have a key role to play in our student's academic success by finding ways to support their mental health. We can transform our courses into places where students feel supported in their efforts to learn while reducing stressors. Of course, this has been vitally important during the pandemic.
Just that mental health is so vitally important now, during this pandemic, which has no doubt exacerbated feelings of anxiety and possibly alienation among our students. I am committed to supporting my students during these difficult learning circumstances.
-Dr. Brooke Cameron
Dr. Angela Facundo
Professor, Department of English
Dr. Facundo provides space in her lectures for people to discuss relevant issues in a judgement-free way. We discussed the sexual assault incidents at Western briefly and she makes it clear that we have the space to talk to her if we need to or want to.
Mental health is the condition of possibility for a meaningful life.
Mental health is embedded in my pedagogy. It informs the necessary but contained role that anxiety plays in the adventure of learning. Without pedagogical containments, all we have is anxiety without learning.
-Dr. Angela Facundo
Dr. Ian Fanning
Professor, Department of Global Development Studies
Ian Fanning teaches in a way that is courteous of mental health concerns and issues and ensures that adequate support is provided for students. Ian Fanning provides resources and support for different groups on campus, checks in on his students and makes sure we are doing ok.
For me, mental health is about finding a path to self-love and coming to a place of knowing you are important. Self-care and love of self are critical in today's busy world. Sometimes we need time to self-care when struggling to fulfill commitments and responsibilities. Mental health is also about having our struggles, situations, experiences, and emotions validated by others through meaningful, supportive and accountable relationships.
I focus on the holistic aspects of education rather than just a strict cognitive focus. We are whole human beings, and we bring our emotions and mental health to our learning experiences. I try to work with students to understand their situation. While I also ask students to be accountable for their mental health, I always try to be flexible and to listen to each student and their unique situation. Educators have a leadership role, but part of that is having compassion. If we can include a compassionate approach in our teaching, then we are modelling this for the students. Our students also teach us a lot about teaching when they share open and honestly about themselves.
-Dr. Ian Fanning
Dr. Stevenson Fergus
Professor, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
Dr. Stevenson Fergus is extremely considerate and understanding of his student's mental health and what they may be going through. He is knowledgeable about sensitive content that may be triggering within courses. He encourages students to put their mental health first and provides resources for help and shows kindness and empathy to his students when they are being faced with adversity.
Good mental health works together with and contributes to physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual wellbeing. It helps us cope with stressors and realize personal and professional goals and ambitions.
In addition to the work in whatever class we are teaching, university students have a great deal going on academically, socially, and otherwise. This has been particularly so during the pandemic. As educators, it is our responsibility to be compassionate towards students when they have difficulties and accommodate them as best we can while maintaining academic standards. At the same time, we aren't mental health professionals so it is important for us to be aware of and refer students to campus and community mental health resources when necessary.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety myself, and understand how debilitating poor mental health can be.
-Dr. Stevenson Fergus
Assistant Professor, School of Nursing
Laurie Gedcke-Kerr greets every person who enters our lecture hall, oftentimes by name. She takes time at the beginning of each class to talk about our mental health. Laurie always encourages us to be active participants in upkeeping our mental health. She recognizes the various facets of life that impact us and is always willing to discuss accommodations or extensions. Laurie always wants to know your side of the story. She always wants to hear from you about what is going on. She wants to know if you're okay. While this may seem like simple actions for a professor to take, it is less expressed than it needs to be in my eyes.
Mental Health plays an important role in my life every day. In short, it means paying attention to the way I feel about myself from an emotional, social, and psychological perspective as these perceptions affect my abilities as a person, and how I feel about myself. When I am able to take care of my own mental health, I am also then able to live a positive, meaningful life and am able to also be there to help others.
I try to support students' mental health by listening. I listen to what students are telling me about their feelings, thoughts and perceptions. Each week at the start of our class together, I do a 'check-in' that focuses on their physical and mental health. I talk about taking care of themselves first and reaching out for help if they feel overwhelmed. We discuss what a manageable amount of stress or anxiety feels like but also talk about recognizing when it becomes too much. I try to send email messages or post onQ announcements randomly to just let them know I am here if they need anything. Although many students do not reach out I do have a few messages back thanking me for checking in. As educators, we need to try and be aware of all the pressures and expectations students have. In addition to the pressures we feel as educators, students face similar feelings. I feel by understanding each other and working together as a team it will benefit us both. Showing kindness and caring are aspects of mental health that can make a difference in so many ways.
Lecturer, School of Rehabilitation Therapy
Amanda Hall is always available and open to talking to students one on one when they need extra support. She acknowledges that our mental health has been impacted and ensures us that it is okay to ask for help when needed.
An individual's mental health is an integral, yet often overlooked, a component of health and wellness. As an occupational therapist teaching and working clinically in a mental health domain, I believe it is so important to create a safe space for discussion and acceptance of challenges people may experience with their mental health. Especially, now as we attempt to adapt to life during a pandemic.
I aim to create a classroom environment that fosters openness to discussion, acceptance of challenges and building a sense of common humanity in an attempt to reduce feelings of isolation for any student who may be silently struggling. I believe educators are well-positioned to set a tone of understanding, acceptance and openness for students to feel safe to access mental health supports when needed.
During covid, we are faced with many unexpected stressors that will undoubtedly impact mental health and wellness. It is important that students feel safe and supported in order to reach out for help when needed. It is equally important that students are observant and responsive to signs when other students may be struggling. Mental wellness takes a collective approach!
Dr. Mary Rita Holland
Professor, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
Mary Rita Holland is a great example of an instructor that cares for the wellbeing of their students, especially during these difficult times. She is kind and her approach to educating captivates her students. Mary Rita Holland encourages good conversation and work but also understands everyone has their limits and is subject to burnout. When the weather was warmer at the beginning of the term, we took our seminar outside as she thought it was a good change in scenery to improve mental wellbeing and learning.
Mental health is a prerequisite to learning. I had significant mental health challenges throughout my time as a student but had many good relationships with professors who reassured me and encouraged me when I was anxious. I'm grateful to be in a position where I can do the same for another generation of students.
What I have learned from my years of teaching so far is that diverse student needs are best managed through universal design. I try to eliminate the extra burden and stigma for students who may require accommodations as much as possible. For example, I provide flexibility and choice in student assessments to mitigate stress and ensure students are learning in a comfortable environment. I try to reassure students by being open to hearing about their needs and making adjustments to timelines for assignments as well.
I want students to be comforted with the knowledge that I care about them and want them to succeed. I value the trust students put in me as a mentor and hope that I can support them through the challenging times they encounter.
-Dr. Mary Rita Holland
Dr. Janet Elizabeth Jull
Professor, School of Rehabilitation Therapy
Dr. Janet Jull has been nothing but kind, personable and very supportive - particularly during the pandemic. Her innate ability to connect with and support her students is strengthened by her knowledge of and awareness of the student experience. During our courses, Dr. Jull regularly made the effort to check in with the class to ensure that content was understood and to ensure that flexibility is built into the scheduling of the courses.
I would describe mental health as a sense of well-being or wellness, that includes a feeling of belonging and purpose in life. I view mental health as affected by numerous factors from daily life, including the stress of balancing school and work with health and relationships.
First of all, it is important to recognize that going to school can be a great way to enhance the well-being and wellness of individuals. And school can also be incredibly stressful and make it difficult to maintain a healthy life balance!
To support student mental health, I work at finding ways to engage with students and to be able to listen and learn about their experiences as learners. I‚ have been through and now play a role in the educational system, but that does not mean I understand what it is like to be a student, especially these days when people are facing a lot of disruption in their day-to-day lives. The students are always teaching me about how to support a healthy learning environment, that is, an environment that is supportive, challenging, and inclusive. I think that educators have a role to play in shaping educational systems to be the very best for learners, and that includes supporting a culture of belonging in our educational systems.
I believe that learning happens when people feel that they are participating as part of a group and in which their views are valued, and what they are learning is meaningful to them. To support students and their mental health, we - every one of us in the educational setting - need to work together.
-Dr. Janet Elizabeth Jull
TA, Department of Translational Medicine
Sophia Linton is an advocate for student mental health. She is provided helpful advice and guided us to set us all up for success in the class. She is easy to talk to and very kind, always willing to help in whatever way possible: "I hope you are all taking care of yourselves. I know the first couple weeks of Grad School are tough. Reach out to me if you need anything, I am here for you!"
Sophia supports students, not only in terms of academics but in terms of their mental wellbeing. While this year has been challenging, Sophia's support has been invaluable for my mental health and wellbeing!
For me, mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It also means something that changes over time and is essential for our overall health.
In my role, I can support student mental health in two major ways. The first way I support student mental health is by working with program leadership to make their learning environment a safe space. The second way I support students is by drawing on my own experiences to show empathy and guidance. As educators, I feel that we are responsible for listening to students and keeping their emotional, psychological, and social well-being at the forefront of our minds at all times.
Professor, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
Megan McAllister is an inspiring, compassionate educator who works really hard to help students understand (and be excited by) course material. Megan really cares about her students and is very supportive of our mental health and wellbeing.
To me, mental health is an umbrella term that encompasses emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing. It is also a vital component to one's overall health. As defined by the World Health Organization, "Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community". I believe this definition lends itself very well to the state of wellbeing that we hope for ourselves and for our students -- that we can all work productively and contribute to the academic community.
I believe that one crucial role educators play in supporting and enhancing student mental health and wellbeing is about first recognizing students' differences and the various barriers they may face in order to provide an equitable learning opportunity. One of the ways that I advocate for and support mental health and wellbeing is to follow one of the principles of Universal Design for Learning by presenting the same content in multiple ways (e.g., PowerPoint slides posted ahead of class, pictures and discussion during lecture to support PowerPoint slides). I also foster a learning environment where students can share their ideas in different ways (e.g., class discussions, small groups, or online platform). I believe it is my responsibility as an educator to create a learning environment that offers various means for students to learn and to share their ideas.
Dr. Janet Menard
Professor, Department of Psychology
Dr. Menard is a kind and compassionate, and inspiring instructor. When I was struggling with my health, she made it clear that my priority should be my wellbeing. Dr. Menard offered creative and fair accommodations to assignments.
I tend to not discriminate between physical and mental health. If your body is not healthy this will affect the way your brain functions, and ultimately your mental health can suffer. The same can happen in reverse. Poor mental health can compromise your physical well-being. This wholistic approach helps me to manage my own mental health and well-being.
I try to take a simple approach to supporting student mental health - be nice, be kind and listen. My primary role, as an educator, is to provide my students with an effective learning experience. This includes letting students know that I’m here for them if they need extra support.
We are all in this journey together. Everyone benefits when we work together as a team!
-Dr. Janet Menard
Dr. Holly Ogden
Professor, Faculty of Education
Professor Ogden has a welcoming classroom and makes it clear to us that we matter and we belong in her class. She is always helpful and happy to chat. She also promotes self-care and prioritizing mental health.
For me, mental health is a combination of our emotional, social, and psychological well-being. Mental health relates to how each of us uses strategies to cope with stress, meet our basic needs, and engage in healthy relationships with ourselves, others, and the world around us. We can all support our mental health by practicing self-care physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and mentally.
I hope that each of my students know and feel that they are central to everything that happens in our classes. I believe in making connections and working hard to develop a strong sense of community in our classes. By starting each session with students sharing their stories, news, and recommendations, we learn about each other and find ways to connect. By seeking and using student feedback regularly, I can make sure that the course content connects to student needs, curiosities, and interests. By planning learning tasks and assignments that are flexible, student-centred, and designed with formative assessment embedded throughout, I hope that I am modelling how educators can support student-centred learning and healthy management strategies for their future students. I strive to offer opportunities for students to share strategies and resources, to have choice and autonomy, and to connect with others regularly.
I think it's important to recognize how much the students themselves support one another and understand what they need and what they can do to be healthy. I learn so much from my students and believe that my mental health is strengthened when I engage with them.
-Dr. Holly Ogden
Dr. John-Kurt Pliniussen
Professor, Smith School of Business
Dr. John-Kurt cares about student mental health, he was extremely helpful throughout the whole course and was the most responsive and kind Professor that I've had so far. His videos were incredibly entertaining and he always responded to my crazy, late-night emails when I felt anxious about assignments and had an abundance of questions.
When I was stressed about an assignment, he reassured me that I was okay and I need not worry. He helped my mental health as he continued to provide reassurance. He was consistently kind and offered many resources and extensions in case students were overwhelmed.
I think student mental health is a state of well-being in which my students can realize their own abilities, can manage the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and are able to make a positive contribution to his or her school life. It is also providing my students with the knowledge that I have their best interests at heart, especially if and when unexpected challenges arise.
I support my students mental health by making sure my teaching assistants and I are available almost 24/7 if someone has a question or issue. I make sure I emphasize this in my course syllabus and weekly lectures.
People who feel good produce better results. MY job is to help students feel good about the course and their progress in the course.
-Dr. John-Kurt Pliniussen
Professor, Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering
Christa Pufahl would always check in on her students in our lectures and would provide fun mind breaks throughout the semester, supporting our mental health. Christa Pufahl's welcoming and warm personality made me feel welcomed on campus after completing my first year online at home. When questions would arise, she always responded back to them and would provide useful and professional answers.
To me, mental health is essential; it goes hand-in-hand with physical health. In fact, at this moment, as we return to online class delivery and renewed concerns about the course of the pandemic, I think that ensuring that our mental health and our student's mental health is critical.
From my own personal experience, I know how difficult mental health struggles can be. I draw on these experiences when dealing with students - although I might not know exactly what they are feeling, I can emphasize. We as educators can play key roles in supporting student mental health and I think we should. Just like athletes can't do their best if their physical health is not optimal, students can't do their best in a learning environment if their mental health is suffering.
I want students in my classes to know that if you are having a rough day or week, tell me - it is in my power to help remove some of the stressors that you may be feeling. Personally, I would much rather a student get a good night's sleep, exercise or time outside if that is what they need instead of getting an assignment in by a certain time. Yes, due dates are important, but we can create flexibility with due dates.
It's simple - be kind and believe your students. I also remind myself to treat my students the same way that I hope my children's (and I have one university age) teachers, professors, and instructors treat them.
Instructor, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies
Throughout the term, Madison Robertson provided mental health resources information to the class and consistently emphasized the importance of taking care of our mental health. Madison also always reiterated that she was always available to chat or guide us in the right direction if we help with anything. It is extremely evident that Madison cares deeply about the mental health and well-being of her students through her understanding, flexibility and willingness to support.
To me, mental health means taking care of my emotional and mental well-being. It is a combination of my ability to handle everyday stress, maintain healthy relationships, and live and work productively. Mental health is complex. It is something everyone has, is applicable at all stages of our lives, and is just as important as our physical health.
Supporting student mental health is imperative in order to help students succeed in their education. One cannot prioritize their education or work if their mental health is suffering. To support my students with their mental health, I take time at the beginning of my courses to provide students with the resources available at Queen's, and through other organizations, for mental health and wellbeing. I also ask students for their feedback at multiple time points during the semester to find out how I can better support them, and their mental health. As an educator, my primary focus is to ensure that I provide a safe and welcoming environment where students feel comfortable seeking help or asking me questions if they need support in their mental health. Finally, I also believe that mental health cannot be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach, as every student has their own experiences, each as important as the next. I ensure that I am up-to-date on my knowledge of resources for mental health, so I can be informative and attentive when my students need it.
In different faculties across Queen's University, we teach about mental health as it pertains to different contexts and topics. I believe it's important that what we teach our students in the classroom is reflected in the support and dedication that we provide students for their own mental health.
Professor, Smith School of Business
Kate Rowbotham is able to create safe spaces for students to express themselves without having to fear judgement or criticism. She handles situations with a lot of grace and care. She understands the pressure and stress of students. She listens and makes every one of her students feel heard.
As someone who has struggled with mental health challenges, this is a tough question to answer. For me, mental health speaks to my capacity to be able to handle whatever is going on - sometimes I'm really on top of it and other times not so much. A big part of my mental health comes from reaching out to others for support, whether that's to family, friends, or mental health professionals.
I think my students can best speak to how I support student mental health, but here are a few things I can offer. First, I see teaching as an act of love, drawing on bell hooks' idea of love as a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust. I talk to students about trust, compassion, and flexibility, and demonstrate how these principles foster excellence in the classroom by giving students opportunities to build their own capacity for handling what's going on around them. Next, I also draw heavily on a Pedagogy of Peace, as articulated by Lindsay Brant, my friend, co-teacher, and Queen's Educational Developer, Indigenous Pedagogies and Ways of Knowing. Adopting a pedagogy of peace means focusing on supporting learners with integrity and loving-kindness through different educational frameworks and techniques. Finally, I talk to my students about my own mental health and the challenges I've faced, as a way to address some of the stigma around mental health conversations. It's tough for me to talk about but I know that sharing my experiences, particularly how I got help as a Queen's undergrad, has encouraged some of my students to seek help themselves.
- Dr.Kate Rowbotham
Dr. Blake Steenhoven
Professor, Smith School of Business
Blake Steenhoven provides a very manageable workload, and actively tries to reduce our stress. To reduce our stress on the final exam, he split up the course into two separate midterms so that our final exam wouldn't cover a manageable amount of content. His teaching method is also very mental-health friendly, adapting requirements to different learning styles. He is very friendly and encouraging of questions, and is always very eager to help if we are struggling in class.
Just like physical health, emotional and psychological well-being are critically important to students' productivity and ability to manage the many stressors in a university experience.
The transition from high school to a university environment can be a challenging one. While adjusting to a new academic environment, students are also learning how to navigate a new social environment. I think it's important that educators, particularly those teaching first-year courses, do what we can to make this transition as easy as possible by clearly communicating expectations, encouraging open communication, and encouraging students to take advantage of the many resources available to support mental health on campus.
While it's impossible to prepare for every challenge you might face in a university environment, I think it's important for students to understand that this is normal. When you encounter challenges, it's not evidence that you don't belong or can't succeed - it's evidence that you're a normal college student having a normal college experience.
-Dr. Blake Steenhoven
Dr. Kyla Tienhaara
Professor, School of Environmental Studies
Kyla Tenhaara is very mindful of student mental health and various academic-related deadlines and stresses - she assigns work with recommended deadlines and collects all work at the end of term.
Mental health is just as important as physical health in determining overall wellbeing.
I have been flexible with deadlines this academic year, in an effort to reduce student stress. I think this has helped some students, but I need to continue to work on other ways to support student mental health, even when life returns to "normal".
I think it is important to recognize that students are not just living through a global pandemic, they are also having to deal with the existential threat posed by ecological breakdown. As a community, we need to do more to address the climate crisis and to help students come to terms with ecological grief and climate anxiety.
-Dr. Kyla Tienhaara
Dr. Dan Vena
Professor, Department of Film and Media
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
Dr. Graham Whitelaw
Professor, School of Environmental Studies
Dr. Whitelaw was incredibly accommodating over the course of the term by offering extensions for assignments in his course. He has understood that the transition back into in-person learning has been challenging. The students in ENSC 301 are very grateful for Dr. Whitelaw's kindness, compassion, and understanding.
Mental health is at the core of a person's well-being impacting how one feels and is able to perform. Mental health impacts our ability to handle stress, make decisions and interact with others.
I support mental health by making it clear to students that I am available to discuss their course requirements at any time and willing to work with them to achieve success.
-Dr. Graham Whitelaw