Well Week 2020 aims to promote student health

McGill’s Student Wellness Hub and the Healthy Living Annex will host the second annual Well Week from Jan. 27-31. This year, Well Week coincides with Bell Let’s Talk, a campaign to raise awareness and discuss stigma around mental health. The Hub hopes that Well Week will build on last year’s events. Well Week comes at a time where the Hub has faced criticism from students, who have complained about waiting up to 80 days for appointments even after the Wellness Hub’s renovation and questioning the impact of awareness campaigns. Kathleen Bateman, Associate Director of Health Promotion and Outreach at the Wellness Hub, spoke on the goals for the week.

“Well Week was created to provide students with spaces and activities to talk about wellness and understand how it affects all aspects of their life, from academics to mental health,” Bateman said. “It’s also an opportunity to connect with others and try out the kinds of activities we offer all year long that can help improve their well-being.”

Student service groups such as the McGill Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and the Peer Support Centre are organizing their own events across campus. Activities range from sports, such as ice skating, to presentations explaining how to navigate healthcare services on campus. 

“We’re really excited about McGill Let’s Skate, our feature event for Bell Let’s Talk day,” Bateman said. “It’s a great opportunity for students to try skating with peers, share a hot chocolate with other McGillians, and learn how physical activity can contribute to overall well-being. Another big event is the #SleepMatters Challenge, happening all day Tuesday. We’re encouraging staff and students to wear PJs to work to remind us of the importance of sleep.”

This is the first time the Student Wellness Hub and Healthy Living Annex are collaborating to organize Well Week. Bateman emphasized the importance of student involvement in the planning process.

“Students have been part of the planning process from the outset,” Bateman said. “Our HLA Student Advisory Board and Peer Health Ambassadors [has been] collaborating and offering input on all of our events.”

Another group involved in Well Week is the McGill Observatory on Health and Social Services Reform (MOHSSR), which will be hosting an event on Jan. 29. Dr. Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, an associate member of MOHSSR, hopes their event will create a lasting impact on students’ wellbeing. 

“One of the goals of the MOHSSR is to serve as a platform to improve knowledge exchange and public understanding of health policies,” Dr. Quesnel-Vallée said. “As a professor, I am keenly aware of the needs of our student body so that’s why I thought it would be more impactful to hold our annual event during Well Week, rather than in November as usual. Our panelists will provide a complementary view of the policy landscape that’s shaping our health system and the lived experience of someone with depression who’s had to navigate this system.”

Dr. Quesnel-Vallée notes that the issue of mental health support does not end after Well Week is over.

“We’ve come a long way in recognizing mental health issues,” Dr. Quesnel-Vallée said. “However, there is still a lot of work to do, and [this week gives wellness issues] a lot of visibility and allows for more [awareness].”

Beyond Well Week 2020, the Student Wellness Hub aims to support students’ mental health needs. According to Dr. Vera Romano, Director of the Student Wellness Hub, support from the Hub includes same-day appointments and individual or group therapy services. 

“We’re constantly working to bring in new clinicians so we can offer more appointments,” Romano said. “The Healthy Living Annex offers health promotion activities year-round, including three monthly collectives throughout the academic year. There [is] also additional support coming this semester to help students more easily access care that we’re really excited to talk about.”

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