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Queen's University

March 2012 Meetings

March 7, 2012

Commissioners met with Kingston psychiatrist Dr. Renee Fitzpatrick, the incoming 2012-2013 AMS Executive Doug Johnson, Mira Dineen and Tristan Lee and PhD Candidate Chi Yan Lam.

Dr. Fitzpatrick spoke about the importance of teaching life skills to students, including time management and financial management. She also supports providing students with “detailed maps” of a course that can help them anticipate stressful times, prepare and organize their schedules.

She also noted a lack of national academic standards in high school can cause issues for students when they get to university. An “A” from one province may not be an “A” in another province.

She also talked about structure of a student health service and promoted the family health team model of shared care, where a psychiatrist works in collaboration with family doctors in the same place so that “corridor consults” happen naturally and often.

The incoming 2012-13 AMS executive noted the difference between mental health and mental wellness – that being mentally unwell can lead to being mental unhealthy and illness, and that proactive measures should be in place to decrease stress and promote health and wellness.

They talked about creating a Student Health and Wellness Hub –not necessarily in a building, but a philosophy that promotes holistic health – the impact of diet and exercise on your day, what’s available on campus (healthy foods, ARC, HCDS etc).

They were asked about having the library open 24 hours and its impact on student wellness. The students said it’s a safe place to study overnight and some people will do it no matter what. If you provide students with information and tips about study patterns, they may stay up a few times, but they’ll learn to try healthier schedules. They noted how most students learn time-management and they have to teach themselves and figure out what works for them. Peer support and mentor advice helps.

They raised the $50 academic appeal fee and the need for a compassionate wavier process to support students in a crisis.

They also suggested more HCDS counselors may be needed to triage students and refer them to community support and they liked the idea of a “hub and spoke” model, with counselors based in faculties who understood a student’s academic context.

Mr. Lam provided his insights after spending several years living and working in residences as a don.

March 7, 2012 - Working Forum

Robert Sutherland Room, JDUC.

Commissioners heard from undergraduate and graduate students, community members, staff and health professionals about a variety of topics and concerns with much of the conversation focusing on the university’s response to, and support of students with serious mentalillnesses. These included the need to talk more about illnesses vs stress and ensure there’s an adequate response and ongoing support when a student reaches out.

As one student said:“It’s dangerous to just talk about suicide when you are talking about mental illness and mental health – a huge issue is living with it. The main struggle is not avoiding suicide. It’s important to have students understand what mental illness is – it’s more than the tragedies.”

Some of the other needs and ideas identified included:

  • ensuring faculty, staff and peers know how to refer students to on-campus resources
  • providing all new faculty members with information and skills development as part of their orientation
  • summer pre-orientation to provide for a smoother transition for incoming students
  • giving students a chance to ‘practice’ being a student/getting to know campus before the start of orientation and the academic year
  • ongoing ‘University 101’ sessions, drop-in workshops
  • flagging students whose marksdrop for targeted outreach
  • creating more flexibility in academic programs for students who need to take a break
  • focus on intercultural communication

March 8, 2012 - Working Forum

Faculty of Education Library, Duncan McArthur Hall, West Campus.

Commissioners met with a small group including an undergraduate student, a graduate student and community members.

The conversation covered a broad range of issues, including the need to distinguish between helping students manage stress and anxiety and how the university responds to and supports students with serious mental illnesses.

Some ideas included:

  • Having a student talk to the incoming class during Orientation Week about the fact that it might take a while to find your place and support network at Queen’s and that’s ok. This would help validate the feelings of some students who may feel initially out of place.
  • Offering options during Orientation Week so students can choose activities they feel most comfortable participating in
  • Finding student role models who will talk about how they have managed their illness while at Queen’s
  • Encouraging faculty to talk about their own personal experiences in class
  • Encouraging faculty to provide information (a slide) about accommodation policies at the start of every course
  • Develop a template “map” for faculty to use in class to help set expectations about a course load – when it will be most busy, what to plan for…
  • Maximize the availability and impact of peer support and mentoring for those with mental illness and for those who are stressed.

Download the Forum PowerPoint presentation (528 KB)...

Download the Forum handout (PDF 90 KB)...

March 14, 2012 - No Meeting

March 21, 2012

The Commission met alone to discuss the framework for its report and recommendations. Commissioners also met with an undergraduate student who spoke about her past experience with an illness and whose recommendations included:

  • that the Commission seek more input from students
  • that a distinction be made between the stresses of university life and mental illness
  • that students be educated to reach out to peers who may be in distress
  • that students be encouraged to seek help as soon as they feel something is not quite right
  • that an immediate triage system be set up in HCDS
  • that the university encourage more collaboration among all the various groups that support students in distress on campus

March 28, 2012

Commissioners met to discuss their report.

Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000