Supporting the mental health and well-being of Ontario’s communities
Date
April 23, 2020
Topics

The closures of schools, businesses and community hubs due to COVID-19 has cast many Ontarians into uncharted waters 

For manyincluding our students, navigating these unprecedented and often-competing challenges – from facing pandemic fears and social isolation to balancing childcare, financial uncertainty and working from home – has been met with rising levels of stress and anxiety.  

Ontario’s universities are committed to partnering across sectors for the mental health and well-being of our students and the province’s communities throughout this time. Each of our institutions is providing continued mental health services and finding innovative ways to virtually connect with students. 

At the same time, university researchers are working with government, hospitals and health-care providers to provide coping tips and strategies for families and workplaces, as well as helping inform policies that will mitigate the mental health impacts of the pandemic.  

The following is just a sample of the ways in which Ontario’s universities are connecting with our students during this pandemic, helping families manage stress and conducting research to inform mental health policies for our province.  

Virtually connecting to students 

  • To help reduce student stress and feelings of isolation, Algoma University is offering online support and activities that ensure students stay socially connected, while physically distant.  
  • With the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, therapy dogs can be all the more important for student mental health. That’s why Carleton University is hosting virtual therapy dog sessions through Instagram.  
  • In order to provide ongoing care and support for students, the University of Guelph continues student counselling services through phone or video. First-time students can set up appointments with the help of Student Wellbeing Navigators.  
  • As students transition to online learning environmentsLakehead University’s Student Affairs is finding new ways to offer help and support, including virtual counselling appointments and a social distancing toolkit.  
  • As students continue their studies, while navigating mounting stress levels brought about by COVID-19, Nipissing University is now providing students with access to an additional mental health servicesReal Campus offers online short-term therapy, specialized counselling and more.  
  • To continue to support the food security of students and help alleviate any stress this might bring, OCAD University’s Student Union is donating Wellness Food Boxes from FoodShare to those in need on a weekly basis. 
  • To support those experiencing elevated levels of anxiety due to the pandemic, Trent University is hosting a daily virtual mediation session, led by a mindfulness and meditation specialist, for students, faculty and staff.  
  • Though their new Digital Student Experience website, Western University is providing students with a comprehensive suite of online supports and resources including academic and learning supports, social connections, health and well-being supports, career development and fitness and nutrition resources.  
  • When students found their daily routines disrupted by campus closures, the University of Windsor took swift action to ensure they were supported. The Student Counselling Centre hosted a free online workshop to help staff and faculty best respond to student needs during this time. 

Informing policies and coping strategies through research 

  • Motivated by the increase in calls to Kids Help Phone, Brock University researchers launched an online study of children’s experiences at home during the pandemic in order to provide coping strategies for families and service organizations. 
  • As health professionals work around the clock to care for COVID-19 patients, McMaster University researchers are studying the effects of the pandemic on the mental and physical health of emergency physicians. It’s one of three national studies that will inform future hospital pandemic planning.  
  • Many employees have been navigating through uncharted territory – from having to work from home to a lack of childcare support. A University of Ottawa researcher is examining the pandemic’s impact on employees’ mental health and how managers can foster mental health in the workplace. 
  • With classes cancelled due to COVID-19, faculty members are using this time to continue to connect with their students. Queen’s University professor used his research on managing emotions to write a note to his class, offering insights and providing tips on how to cope with anxiety and the weeks of disruption.
  • As communities across Ontario implement social distancing measures, researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University are studying the mental health of workers. Their work aims to determine the impact on family relationships and overall wellbeing in order to help inform policies that can mitigate these effects. 

Helping families and communities manage stress 

  • As Ontarians continue to experience increased anxieties due to COVID-19, while balancing competing household demands, a Laurentian University researcher has put together a series of quick and easy mindfulness strategies to help families cope. 
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into the spring, major disruptions to daily routines continue to weigh heavily on Ontarians’ collective mental health. An Ontario Tech University researcher is using her expertise to offer therapy and coaching to frontline medical workers and virtual arts therapy sessions for their children.
  • While Ontarians continue to adjust to a new normal of physical distancing and vigilant hand-washing, levels of fear and anxiety are also increasing. A Ryerson University researcher is providing coping strategies to help maintain positive mental health during the pandemic. 
  • The uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak can exacerbate stress and feelings of powerlessness. A University of Toronto researcher is sharing her tips for managing stress and anxiety, and mentally coping with the challenges caused by the crisis. 
  • As many families navigate competing demands, such as, childcare, self-care and professional responsibilities, University of Waterloo researchers have outlined proactive family strategies for maintaining positive relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • To ensure students have access to services that support academic success and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, York University is offering virtual student counselling and development services through a confidential telephone/video platform.

In addition, amid growing concerns around COVID-19, The Centre for Innovation and Campus Mental Health has created additional resources to help universities support student mental health and well-being. 

Ontario’s universities remain committed to the mental health and well-being of our students and communities and we continue to partner across sectors to help support our regions, businesses and province throughout this time. For more information, please visit our COVID-19 page.