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Mental Health & Well-being Task Force


The McMaster Okanagan Mental Health & Well-being Task Force was formed at the request of McMaster’s Provost, Dr. Susan Tighe, in response to the challenges faced by the university during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the direction and guidance of Dr. Catharine Munn, the leader behind the Professor Hippo-on-Campus program, the task force worked to provide short and long-term recommendations to the university around mental health education, programming, and policies affecting McMaster’s staff, students and faculty.

The task force suggested that McMaster University aspire to be:

A psychologically healthy, inclusive, accessible university which promotes and supports the mental health and well-being of every student, staff and faculty member in all of its activities and creates conditions for all to flourish.

Task Force Recommendations

The overarching, guiding recommendations of the task force intend to help and inspire campus leaders to:

  1. Improve institutional planning, decision-making and implementation related to mental health and well-being programming, policies, and processes and ensure meaningful engagement of members of equity-deserving groups throughout. Inclusion of persons with lived experience of mental health and substance use disorders and inter-sectionalities, and representatives from relevant student, staff and faculty sub-groups is essential.
  2. Create and promote more inclusive and psychologically healthy learning and working environments and cultures and ensure that threats to inclusion and psychological health and safety (i.e., mistreatment, discrimination, harassment) are identified and addressed early and systematically).
  3. Improve navigation and access to compassionate, safe, timely, inclusive, stepped, and effective peer and professional mental health supports (staff, faculty and students) and services (primarily students) which meet the needs of students, staff and faculty, including in urgent and emergency situations.
  4. Create and/or increase availability and access to relevant, evidence-informed promotional, preventive, and educational mental health and well-being activities and offerings appropriate to the university context and specific to the needs of students, faculty, and staff.
  5. Increase our campus-wide capacity to address and improve the mental health and well-being of students, faculty and staff through improved collaboration and use of best available evidence and practices. This requires improved campus-wide communication, navigation, coordination, planning, evaluation, research, and knowledge translation.

Bullying: ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.

Burnout: a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed (Reference: World Health Organization). Burnout is characterized by three main dimensions: exhaustion, cynicism (less identification with the job), and feelings of reduced ability or effectiveness.

Harassment: a form of discrimination including any unwanted physical or verbal behaviour that offends or humiliates you. Generally, harassment is a behaviour that persists over time.

Mental health: a state of well-being in which the individual realizes their own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to their community (Reference: World Health Organization).

Mistreatment: intentional or unintentional, disrespectful treatment of an individual (or group) that has or may have the effect of creating an intimidating, humiliating, hostile or offensive work or learning environment for the individual in that circumstance. Examples of mistreatment include sexual harassment; discrimination or harassment based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation; humiliation, psychological or physical punishment; and the use of grading and other forms of assessment in a punitive manner.

Organizational compassion: members of a system collectively notice, feel and respond to pain experienced by members of that system.

Organizational trust: the expectation within an organization that an individual is willing to allow themselves to be vulnerable and can expect the organization to be trustworthy.

Psychological contract: an individual belief in a reciprocal obligation between the individual and the organization.

Psychological safety: participants in a workplace (or educational environment) are confident that if they ask for help, seek feedback, admit errors or a lack of knowledge, try something new or raise ideas, questions, suggestions or work-related concerns, they will not be exposed to punishment, humiliation or interpersonal or social threats to their self or identity, their status or standing and to their career or employment.

Psychologically healthy and safe workplace: a workplace that promotes workers’ psychological well-being and actively works to prevent harm to worker psychological health including intelligent, reckless, or intentional ways (Reference: Guarding Minds@Work).

Well-being: the state of being comfortable, happy or healthy.

Wellness: the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of a deliberate effort.

Task Force Members

An oversight committee consisting of senior leaders, chaired by Dr. Catharine Munn, focused on addressing key issues in relation to institutional planning, structures and budgets. Two sub-committees composed of students, faculty, and staff members with expertise and lived experience and/or interest in mental health and well-being reported into the oversight committee. One sub-committee worked on the issues arising from workplace and academic environments while the other identified the types of programs and services needed to promote mental health and well-being resources on campus.

  • Chair: Catharine Munn (Advisor to the Provost and Vice-President – Academic, Special Projects – Mental Health)
  • Arig Al Shaibah (Associate Vice-President, Equity and Inclusion)
  • Lynn Armstrong (Administrator, McMaster Okanagan Office of Health & Well-being)
  • Kim Dej (Acting Vice-Provost)
  • Denver Della-Vedova (President & CEO, McMaster Students Union)
  • Gayleen Gray (Assistant Vice President and Chief Technology Officer)
  • Nick Kates (Chair, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences)
  • Wanda McKenna (Associate Vice-President and Chief Human Resources Officer)
  • Sandra Moll (Associate Professor, School of Rehabilitation Science – Occupational Therapy)
  • Sean Van Koughnett (Associate Vice-President – Students and Learning, Dean of Students)
  • Mark Walton (Vice-Dean, Faculty Affairs)
  • Co-Chair: Catharine Munn (Advisor to the Provost and Vice-President – Academic, Special Projects – Mental Health)
  • Co-Chair: Sandra Moll (Associate Professor, School of Rehabilitation Science – Occupational Therapy)
  • Lynn Armstrong (Administrator, McMaster Okanagan Office of Health & Well-being)
  • Dr. David L. Clark (Professor, Department of English and Cultural Studies)
  • Dr. Catharine Connelly (Professor and CRC, Area Chair Human Resources and Management)
  • Allison Drew-Hassling (Director of Student Support and Case Management, Student Accessibility Services)
  • Jim Dunn (Chair, Health, Aging & Society, Director, McMaster Institute for Health Equity)
  • May-Marie Duwai-Sowa (Employment Equity Specialist)
  • Hargun Kaur (Student Representative)
  • Matt Kwan (Canadian Campus Well-being Survey – McMaster Lead)
  • Marilyn Lightstone (Professor and Chair, Mechanical Engineering)
  • Andrew LoGuidice (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Mental Health and Well-being, MacPherson Institute)
  • Jim McAndrew (UNIFOR Representative)
  • Clare Mitchell (Chief Operating Officer, Clinical Services, FHS)
  • Lisa Morine (Director Health Safety and Risk Management)
  • Rodrigo Narro Pérez (PhD Candidate, School of Earth, Environment and Society; Co-Convener – Race, Racialization and Racism Working Group (R3))
  • Maggie Pooran (Executive Director, Employee & Labour Relations, Human Resources Services)
  • Chris Roberts (Director, Hospitality Services)
  • Alison Sills (Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Past-President, MUFA)
  • Felicia Vulcu (Associate Professor (Teaching), Biochemistry/Biomedical Sciences)
  • Marisa Young (Associate Professor, Canadian Research Chair in Mental Health and Work-Life Transitions)
  • Co-Chair: Catharine Munn (Advisor to the Provost and Vice-President – Academic, Special Projects – Mental Health)
  • Co-Chair: Nick Kates (Chair, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences)
  • Lynn Armstrong (Administrator, McMaster Okanagan Office of Health & Well-being)
  • Jill Axisa (Director, Faculty Leadership and Development)
  • Maria Bargeman (PhD Candidate, Nurse)
  • Connor Blakeborough (Health Promoter, Student Wellness Centre)
  • Lorraine Carter (Director, McMaster Continuing Education)
  • Dr. Teresa Chan (Assistant Dean, Program for Faculty Development Associate, Professor, Medicine)
  • Andrea Cole (Coordinator, Graduate Student Recruitment, Retention & Diversity)
  • Shylo Elmayan (Director, Indigenous Student Services)
  • Deb Garland (Program Manager, Engagement & Wellness, HR Services)
  • Lori Goff (Director, MacPherson Institute)
  • Jill Halladay (RN, Clinical Epidemiologist, PhD Candidate (HRM), School of Nursing Sessional Instructor)
  • Jacqueline Hampshire (Associate Director (Communications, Marketing and Events), Student Success Centre)
  • Ayesha Khan (Associate Professor, Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour)
  • Zeinab Khawaja (Health Promoter, Student Wellness Centre)
  • Andrew LoGuidice (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Mental Health and Well-being, MacPherson Institute)
  • Randi McCabe (Director, Anxiety Treatment and Research Centre, SJH, Professor, Department of Psychiatry)
  • Natasja Menezes (Chair, Student Affairs, Undergraduate Medicine, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry)
  • Dr. Debbie Nifakis (C.Psych, Associate Director, Counselling, SWC)
  • Ana Pereira (Lead Coordinator for International Students, Student Success Centre)
  • Wil Prakash Fujarczuk (Sexual Violence Prevention Education Coordinator, Equity & Inclusion Office)
  • Tracy Prowse (Associate Dean, Academic, Associate Professor, Anthropology)