Many of us have shifted into a new reality of learning, working, and connecting with our loved ones. As we return to campus in our relative capacities, we reflect on how this may look for everyone – especially within the scope of mental health. At a time of social distancing, it is incredibly important for every individual to have support and access to the resources they need. That’s why at the Innovation Hub, we’ve been thinking deeply of how our insights from previous (and ongoing work) with students can be shared to our campus community. Our objective is to help support students by designing spaces grounded in a culture of care at the University of Toronto.
We connected with Joshua Grondin, a Master of Education student in Higher Education at OISE and past Vice-President of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU). Joshua is also a part of Students for Barrier-free Access, a levy-funded student group that advocates for disabled and mad-identified students on campus. Through these capacities, Joshua has a great deal of empathy for the many realities at the University. Especially when it comes to mental health, wellness and understanding where culture of care principles come into play between individuals and the University.
After our work last semester with the Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health, we are thrilled to see their recently released Final Report and the accompanying Administrative Response. As readers may remember, our Mental Health team led eleven feedback sessions for the Task Force. Our six initial events invited students to discuss their mental health experiences and informed the draft themes. A further five events collected feedback on those themes.
The cornerstone of our approach at the Innovation Hub is “students talking to other students.” We believe that peers relate to each other more openly and advocate for each other more strongly and that peer-based support both provides comfort and leads to change. This belief invigorates all our projects, including our upcoming partnership with the Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health, in which we are leading student consultations to gather perspectives about mental health on campus. While I, as a staff member, am coordinating this project, students are co-leading the initiative with me.