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Instructors honoured for championing student mental health

More than two dozen Queen’s instructors have been nominated as Classroom Champions for Mental Health.

Seated students are seen from the back of a classroom
A total of 28 Queen’s instructors have been nominated by students and teaching assistants as the inaugural Classroom Champions for Mental Health. 

An instructor’s work does not simply conclude at the end of a lecture. The journey to a successful session – or term for that matter ­– often requires a holistic approach. An approach that includes a key element: championing mental health.

The Student Mental Health Network is honouring Queen’s educators working to support and advance the mental wellbeing of those in their classrooms. These instructors have been named Classroom Champions for Mental Health.

A total of 28 instructors were nominated by students and teaching assistants for this honour. Those who submitted nominations shared stories of the positive impacts instructors made on the mental health of students.

“Mental health determines everything we do in life. Even when thinking that you are doing fantastic, this still involves mental health,” says Daphne Brouwer, a professor in the Department of Philosophy. “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.”

The Student Mental Health Network is a caucus of student and staff leaders working to advance student mental health. The project aligns with the objectives and values outlined in Queen’s Campus Wellbeing Framework and Queen’s Strategy, including promoting a culture of health and well-being across campus.

Classroom Champions for Mental Health is co-led by the Campus Wellness Project’s undergraduate student intern, a position partially funded by Bell Let’s Talk and coordinated through Student Affairs.

“The Classroom Champions for Mental Health project showcases educators who have made a significant contribution to student mental health,” says Linda Cheng, QUIP student intern, Project Coordinator of the Campus Wellness Project, and Co-Lead of the Student Mental Health Network. “The student submissions and insights on how these educators view and approach mental health, really show how a small action can create a large impact. For example, taking a couple of minutes before class to ask how everyone is doing or telling students they’re available to talk and/or listen.”

Elizabeth Baisley, a professor in the Department of Political Science, focuses on three areas to help their students. First is making sure students have a manageable workload; Second, classes are designed by using the principals of universal design for learning. Built into the curriculum is the assumption every student will experience some form of an accommodation need; and final, Dr. Baisley reduces the stigma that comes with mental health issues through regular conversations with the class.

“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,” Dr. Baisley says.

Educators who are nominated as Classroom Champions will be profiled on the Campus Wellbeing site and social media (Instagram: @campuswellbeingproject) during Mental Health Promotion Week (Jan. 24-28). Students will have the opportunity to nominate additional Classroom Champions later this term.

Jodi Basch, an instructor and PhD student in the Faculty of Education, provides students with resources to support their own mental health. Additionally, Basch empowers students to share those tips with their peers.

“Just as we have a physical immune system, it is important to recognize that we also have a psychological immune system,” Basch says. “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.

The next round of Champions for Mental Health will open this spring, and will be open for students to nominate staff and instructors.

For more information and resources on mental health efforts at Queen’s, please visit the Wellbeing Resources page on the Campus Wellness Project site.