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Mental health forum generates sweeping support from UW students

A mental health forum is held at the University of Waterloo (March 14, 2018). Photo: Mark Pare - 570 NEWS.

An engaging and thought-provoking forum Wednesday afternoon.

Students at the University of Waterloo got their first chance to ask officials about the recently released President’s Advisory Committee report on student mental health.

Walter Mittelstaedt is the Director of Campus Wellness at U-W.

He tells 570 NEWS he was quite pleased with the turn out. He says how they’re implementing and building on the available mental health services is highlighted, and was pleased they got to increase the staff.

That comes after a $1.2-million dollar announcement earlier this week, as U-W will look to hire more mental health care workers on campus.

He says he’s happy they got to address students’ concerns, adding the report itself is leading them down a path of a ‘step-care’ model, where the right services are made available to students at the right time.

“So not everybody is coming in to a counselling centre, or a health centre, looking for an in-depth treatment,” he said, “They may be looking for a one-time meeting with the professional staff. They may be looking to have some resources, some ways they can go off and work on their own.”

He adds the questions asked by students were thoughtful.

“I spoke to a number of students afterwards, and similarly, they’re really engaged in this,” he said, “They’re supportive. They’re pleased that the university is taking this kind of very in depth and serious look.”

Antonio Brieva is the President of the Federation of Students at U-W, and a member of the committee that helped construct the report.

He says the recommendations are a “strong first step in the right direction,” admitting that not all the recommendations will address everyone’s concerns.

“But I think it does a really good start at acknowledging that concerns that students have been bringing up for several years now.”

Brieva goes on to say that sometimes they focus more on a solution for all students, but they do need to go step by step to address each person’s unique needs to eliminate some of the barriers students face.

Mittelstaedt agrees that there’s a sense of urgency to implement the 36 recommendations outlined in the report.

But he adds there’s also a sense of patience.

“As we move into implementation, I think we’re going to find our 36 recommendations are going to be broken down into those kind of immediate actions,” he said, “Some that are perhaps going to take a little bit of a task force or project team to work on. And then some that are going to require some additional study.”

When asking about putting a timeline on the report implementation, Mittelstaedt adds “the implementation committee would be looking at putting some timelines on a number of those items fairly quickly.”