Mental health and wellness pivotal in academic success for students and academics alike

Taylor Institute brings dedicated stream of mental health-focused workshops this year

Full article from UToday, September 28 2017

Think about a time when you were learning at your best — and now think to how you felt mentally in that moment. Were you stressed or anxious, or were you in a state of positive mental health? For most of us, we learn the best when we are at ease and feel supported.

Through the Campus Mental Health Strategy, the Teaching and Learning Sub-Committee focuses on exploring and promoting teaching and learning practices that integrate concepts of mental health and wellness, to help students, faculty and staff realize their full potential while they are advancing their studies or research.

“We know that mental health is a critical element of how people learn, their success and feeling of connection while in our community,” says Natasha Kenny, chair of the sub-committee and director of the Educational Development Unit at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning. “Much of what we have been working on this year is equipping our academic staff to be responsive to student concerns and needs, but also to consider their own health and wellness as scholars interacting with students every day.” 

Workshop topics include reducing stigma in the classroom, identity in the classroom, responding to students in distress, contemplative pedagogy, teaching controversial issues, and using mental health and wellness in course design.

In addition to the workshops, University of Calgary Teaching Scholars Rachael Crowder, assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work, and Melissa Boyce, senior instructor in the psychology department are guiding a community of practice to discuss the connections between learning and well-being in higher education, sharing stories, ideas and strategies related to well-being.

“When we are acutely or chronically stressed, the areas of our brain that support memory, decision-making, and learning tend to go off-line. From a simply academic point of view, we need to be validating our students' experiences, and providing tools and resources to manage stress,” says Crowder. “From a compassionate, human-flourishing point of view, teaching and encouraging our students to cultivate resilience, good mental health, and well-being is a gift that lasts a lifetime.”

Crowder is also leading an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program, designed for teaching faculty to introduce guided instruction in meditation, mindful stretching and group dialogue.

Register for workshops with the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning.

The University of Calgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is a bold commitment to the importance of mental health and well-being of our university family. Our vision is to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and individually and collectively realize our full potential. If you think you need help, please visit resources here. If you think someone you know needs help, find more information here.