DLSPH Open: Mental Health at DLSPH

November 11/2019

Dear colleagues,

Over the last several months, mental health concerns were brought to the forefront at the University. I would like to acknowledge a number of individuals and initiatives that all members of our community can engage in to support their own — and each other’s — mental health and well-being.

Adalsteinn Brown

Earlier this year, U of T announced its Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health. Corey McAuliffe, a PhD candidate in Social and Behavioural Health Sciences, was selected to serve as one of 10 students, faculty members and administrative staff to sit on the task force. I am grateful for McAuliffe’s leadership on this important initiative and for sharing her experience to help other students, notably international students.

On November 7, President Meric Gertler shared an update on the Task Force, including the extensive consultation plan and upcoming student-led feedback events scheduled throughout the month of November. I encourage you to read President Gertler’s message here.

Elli Weisbaum is another student connected to the DLSPH community who is sharing her expertise to support mental health and well-being at the School. She is leading monthly mindfulness sessions that help build mental fitness and I encourage everyone to attend.

At IHPME, first-year MHSc student Elzar Sipin has stepped into the newly created role of Health and Wellness lead for the IHPME GSU. Sipin, who has trained as a psychiatric nurse, is hoping to provide opportunities for IHPME students to develop tools to create their own safe spaces, including crisis recognition and service navigation, and to also encourage student-to-student conversations about mental health. Forthcoming opportunities for a mental health day as well as workshops and activities are being explored to provide resources for mental health support more directly to those who need them.

The Public Health Students’ Association (PHSA) is also creating opportunities to discuss mental health within the School, develop priorities, and formulate a report to address them. The recent DLSPH Student-Led Conference, “Pushing the Paradigm: Broadening our Understanding of Mental Health,” was an important opportunity for students to engage with experts from academia, social services, health care, policy and individuals with lived experience to develop a holistic perspective of mental health.

On October 29, the PHSA hosted a Mental Health Forum where students shared their thoughts and experiences related to mental health concerns and services at U of T. I look forward to reading the report and working on actionable items that the School can implement to help students throughout their academic journey. Additional student town halls are planned for the coming months and I anticipate mental health will remain a critical issue.

Faculty and staff have also offered sessions for students to help ease the stress that comes along with graduate studies. The Graduate Office has offered a professional development session on stress management and a mindfulness session at orientation week.

I am grateful to all students that are actively participating in the mental health conversation within DLSPH, the University, and beyond. All of these initiatives have my full support and I look forward to working in partnership with our student body to ensure the School is a safe, healthy space for all.

There is still work to be done and I am fully committed — as is the DLSPH Senior Administrative Team — to actively listen, support and respect student voices on this issue. I’d like to thank the PHSA, the IHPME GSU, and all students that are engaging in conversations around mental health.

The U of T Student Life Office compiled a list of resources and tools to support students that are feeling distressed that can be viewed here: http://www.studentlife.utoronto.ca/feeling-distressed.

Thank-you to those who have dedicated time on top of their studies to improve the DLSPH community and the health of others. I am grateful for your leadership and look forward to sharing more student insights in the coming weeks and months.

Sincerely,

Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown
Professor and Dean
DLSPH