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. Read Dr. David Clark, a committee member’s provocative piece on the distress faced by education institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic and demand to reimagine university campuses , “Abolish the University: Build the Sanctuary Campus”.
The overarching, guiding recommendations of the task force intend to help and inspire campus leaders to:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 meets the needs of students, staff and faculty, including in urgent and emergency situations.
- 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.
- 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.
Mental Health and Well-Being Key Terms:
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.
McMaster Mental Health Programs and Research
Are you or do you know a mental health champion? Have you developed or are you part of of a program, initiative or group that addresses mental health at McMaster University? Are you conducting research into campus / post-secondary mental health?
Please tell us more about what you are working on.