“We care deeply for their well-being”: U of T admin addresses Bahen Centre death at Business Board meeting

Students lambaste board members following protests outside Simcoe Hall

“We care deeply for their well-being”: U of T admin addresses Bahen Centre death at Business Board meeting

Content warning: this article contains mentions of suicide.

In response to what they perceive as U of T’s lack of action on mental health following a suicide at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology — the second death to occur in the building in the past year — students passionately argued for accountability and increased mental health services at yesterday’s Business Board meeting.

The latter half of the silent protest held yesterday afternoon to pressure U of T on its perceived lack of mental health support coincided with a meeting of the Business Board, a U of T body that handles financials, public and community relations, and alumni affairs.

The meeting was supposed to be held in the Governing Council Chambers in Simcoe Hall but was moved to the Medical Sciences Building last minute after students began a sit-in protest outside the rooms.

U of T students Lucinda Qu and Kristen Zimmer delivered stinging rebukes of the university’s mental health resources during the meeting.

Following the board’s open-session discussion on regular business, Qu was given permission to read a statement from an online document that she had shared in the Facebook event page for the protest.

She told the board that “the university is ignoring the needs of students in a blatant attempt to take the onus off of its administration for our mental health, safety, and well-being.”

Qu criticized long delays in mental health services, a lack of 24-hour support, unaccountable professors, and “deeply problematic and retraumatizing” counselling as unacceptable given the university’s “recklessly dangerous” competitive environment.

“To the thousands of us that will spend years of our lives here and to the handful of us who will end our lives here, this is disheartening and it must change,” she said.

U of T President Meric Gertler, who was attending his first Business Board meeting of the year, said that the university can and should do more to improve mental health support. He added that the university’s consultations have been in good faith and that significant investments have already been made for mental health support.

“I just want to signal here and now an openness and, indeed, enthusiasm to work with students in good faith and in a very open way to solicit your advice and your ideas on how to do better,” he said.

U of T Vice-President & Provost Cheryl Regehr said that the university has “made many investments, but that those investments have not yet reached the point where [they are] meeting all the needs.”

Regehr cited the university’s mental health framework committee — responsible for managing the university-mandated leave of absence policy — and its expert panel on the undergraduate educational experience as two existing initiatives that support students.

The controversial university-mandated leave of absence policy was passed last year and allows the university to place students on leave if their mental health poses a risk to themselves or to others, or if it interferes with their studies. The policy drew criticism from the Ontario Human Rights Commission and was heavily protested by student groups.

After Regehr’s statement, Zimmer addressed the board, saying that “a student died this weekend and we can afford to spend a few extra minutes listening to students.” The board secretary granted her permission to speak, but asked her to keep her statement to one minute.

Zimmer gave an impassioned plea for the university to remove the “dangerous” policy, which she said “is clearly not working and clearly not for us.”

“We see this policy, we see it in print, we see it in writing, and we are afraid. The consequences of this fear, the consequences of being silenced is life-threatening,” she said.

In an interview with The Varsity following the meeting, Gertler emphasized that students’ mental health is a priority for the university and said that he wants to continue working on the issues and challenges that students face.

“Student well-being — mental, physical, emotional — is right at the top of the list. This is why we’re here. We are the university for students and about students. So clearly, we care deeply for their well-being.”

Gertler pointed to the lack of provincial and federal funding for creating new mental health supports for students, and that the university has advocated for increased funding for several years but never received sufficient funds.

He also said that there are numerous faculty and staff working to support students, and in response to requests from students for an open forum with university administrators, hopes to ensure “quality input and meaningful dialogue.”

In response to a question about whether the university is in any way culpable for the multiple suicides that have occurred on campus, Gertler said that he couldn’t address that question because the university needed much more detail.

“We know that these are adults we are talking about and we have to provide every opportunity for them to seek the kind of services that they require,” he said.

“But it’s a shared responsibility: families, friends, society more broadly, as well as the individuals involved. It’s part of a much broader conversation, a much broader effort.”

If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
  • Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
  • Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030

“This happened so close to home”: students call on administration to take action on mental health

Protest outside Simcoe Hall comes day after public death by suicide at Bahen

“This happened so close to home”: students call on administration to take action on mental health

Content warning: this article contains mentions of suicide.

In the wake of a public death by suicide on campus last night, students are demanding urgent attention to mental health at the University of Toronto. Approximately 100 students gathered outside Simcoe Hall on Monday afternoon, meeting what they perceive as silence from the university administration on mental health with their own solemn silence.

Toronto emergency services were called to the Bahen Centre for Information Technology on Sunday night in response to a medical emergency, after a student fell from high in the building’s atrium. Toronto Police have ruled the death non-suspicious and non-criminal. This marks the second death by suicide in the past year at the Bahen Centre, a hub for students studying computer science and engineering at U of T.

Congregating outside Simcoe Hall at 2:00 pm, the protest grew in numbers until shortly after 3:00 pm, when students moved inside to sit on the second floor of the administration building. Students were seen holding signs with slogans including “the university is complicit” and “you can’t ignore us forever.” A number of media outlets, including CBC and CTV, were also present.

By 5:00 pm, students had moved across King’s College Circle to the Medical Sciences Building, where a Governing Council Business Board meeting was taking place. The Business Board meeting was originally scheduled to take place at Simcoe Hall, but the location was changed on short notice.

Padraic Berting, a third-year student, was one of the organizers of the protest. “This is an issue that’s very personal to me,” Berting said, and noted that this was the third death by suicide on campus in the past year that he was aware of.

Berting said that he’s disappointed that the university administration seems unwilling to recognize what he and many others are calling a “mental health crisis” on this campus. “I felt that the only way to actually do something was to try and make it more of a public statement,” he said. “So that they will be publicly compelled to do something.”

Second-year student Sabrina Brathwaite said that she came out to the protest “because there have been a number of deaths on campus” and that “there must be an emphasis on action and policy change.”

“I’m somewhat cynical in terms of student protests and admin changing things, but I think it’s better than nothing, and I think that at the very least it shows that there are people who care,” Brathwaite said. “A protest like this will show admin that people are watching.”

Sana Mohtadi, a second-year student, said that she went to the protest “to see the sheer magnitude of the mental health crisis at U of T.”

“It’s incredible to see such solidarity on a campus that often feels really isolated,” Mohtadi said. “I thought it was a great starting point for renewing a conversation about mental health on campus.”

The two deaths at Bahen are inseparable from the computer science student community. The intense pressure that computer science students are put under, both to be accepted to the subject program of study and succeed in the competitive program, have a number of people questioning how this may contribute to poor mental health.

“I think that there’s ways that the program is more stressful than it has to be,” said Maxwell Garrett, a second-year Computer Science student who was at the protest. Garrett said that he is saddened by the deaths in Bahen, a space in which he and many others in the computer science program spend much of their time. “It’s a little stressful, just knowing that two students have ended their life there,” Garrett said.

Anam Alvi, a fourth-year Computer Science student present at the protest, was studying in Bahen last night when the death occurred. Alvi said that she came out to the protest because she wants to put pressure on the university to recognize that “people aren’t okay with this lack of acknowledgement and lack of action,” even if it means hurting the reputation of the university.

“It’s incredibly hard to realize that this happened so close to home, that this is someone in our community,” Alvi said. “This is a building that so many people in our program commune around, it’s such a safe space for all of us.”

Alvi said that she can’t see herself going back to Bahen anytime soon. “It changes what it means to be there, at least for the time being.”

SHANNA HUNTER/THE VARSITY

Janine Robb, Executive Director of the Health & Wellness Centre at U of T, said that the centre had been working hard to provide support to students impacted by the recent death, including accepting short-notice appointments and bringing in an outside provider to be on campus today for extra support.

Robb acknowledged the “tragic accident” that occurred at Bahen, and reiterated that the university is unable to share any more details at this time because the victim’s family has not provided permission for the university to do so.

“We’re really focused more on students who witnessed or who are affected by what happened,” Robb said.

Speaking about the availability of mental health resources on campus, a subject of scrutiny from many of the students at the protest, Robb said that Health & Wellness “provides and allocates counsellors as soon as we are aware of the situation.”

“We take mental health very seriously, and we’re certainly aware of it being a tragic and common problem in our society and in our community,” Robb said. “I would tell you that it’s a public health issue. I think my staff are doing a very good job of responding to the need.”

“To me it seems we’re never seen as supportive enough, despite our best efforts, and I’m just not sure how to change the dialogue on that,” Robb said.

Joshua Grondin, Vice-President University Affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union, said that he raised the issue of emergency mental health supports on campus in a January meeting with the Office of the Vice-Provost Students. Grondin said that he specifically suggested that a safety net or barrier be installed at Bahen, and proposed that the university investigate implementing 24-hour counselling services at Robarts Library during the months of March and April.

“I mentioned specifically that I was worried someone would duplicate what was done by a student earlier this year,” Grondin said, and that he told the administration he “thought these barriers could prevent another person from doing the same thing.”

While the protest today was characterized by silence, some students believe that frank words are the way to bring about change. “I think people who were there need to talk about what they heard, what they saw,” Alvi said. “I think it will bring gravity to the situation.”

If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
  • Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
  • Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.

— With files from Josie Kao

U of T acknowledges death at Bahen Centre, police deem incident non-suspicious

Bahen Centre reopened, students organizing protest

U of T acknowledges death at Bahen Centre, police deem incident non-suspicious

U of T released its first statement today acknowledging the death at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology last night, sending out a Twitter thread at noon asking people to respect the individual’s privacy.

Toronto Police spokesperson Jenifferjit Sidhu told The Varsity, “The investigation at this time is non-criminal and not suspicious.”

The Bahen Centre was temporarily closed earlier today while police investigated the incident. Several classes were relocated as a result.

The Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering announced that the building reopened at 1:00 pm today, though 1:00 pm classes that had been moved would still take place in the locations announced this morning. Classes starting at 2:00 pm are set to take place in Bahen as originally scheduled.

Undergraduate Associate Chair for the Department of Computer Science Michelle Craig also emailed Computer Science students shortly after 12:30 pm on Monday, acknowledging the death and asking for people to respect the individual’s privacy. Both the email and U of T’s Twitter thread listed mental health services and hotlines for people to access.

Community disappointed in U of T’s response

U of T’s response to the incident has been criticized by students over social media, with many linking it to perceived inaction on mental health issues.

One person on Twitter replied to U of T’s tweet by writing, “Condolences mean nothing until we see real change.”

Shortly after the news was broken last night, U of T students organized a silent protest that is set for today from 2:00–6:00 pm at King’s College Circle, near President Meric Gertler’s office.

The event’s description states that U of T’s “gross negligence towards its students has led to a toxic campus environment.”

“The U of T administration refuses to acknowledge this ongoing crisis, and treats these students like an afterthought — in addition to the tradition long practiced by the administration, of ignoring advice to modernize and strengthen U of T’s mental health services.”

If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
  • Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
  • Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
  • Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
  • U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.

The Varsity has reached out to U of T Media Relations for comment.

Mental health recovery programs for athletes

How your athletic résumé can be your gateway to psychological reformation

Mental health recovery programs for athletes

Staring at a blank wall, your mind starts to use it as a movie screen. You see flashbacks of the game-ending goal or a play that you read wrong. The paper that is due next week, sporting only your typed-out name, is the last thing on your mind. As those walls start to feel as though they are closing in on you, you search for a breath of fresh air or even a door that leads to an escape. “Where are these opportunities for help?” you ask. “As a varsity athlete, how can I ever be seen with a concerned look on my face?”

Just like when you take a step forward to find the puck buried under the goalie or meet the soccer ball at the centre of the field, there is a whole team that can offer you support on campus as an athlete and beyond that can cater to your discipline.

A March 2018 report by the Toronto Mental Health and Addictions Access Point in collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Wellesley Institute found that over 13,000 people in Toronto were on a waitlist for mental health services and addictions supportive housing. This shows how many people out there are ready to talk and receive help. As students, we have access to University of Toronto benefits such as workshops and on-site physicians at the Health & Wellness Centre that can lead us in the right direction. We should consider ourselves lucky and ensure that we make use of these resources whenever we can to better our health.

Sometimes, just  switching to a new environment can be beneficial for mental relief, especially as athletes who spend a lot of time at faculty gyms and with the same people.

The Canadian Centre For Mental Health And Sport (CCMHS), based in Ottawa, offers a self-referral program and is now accepting new patients. From personal experience, most clinics prefer having applications submitted by physicians, so consider this a rare opportunity. The centre  provides doctors specifically qualified to treat athletes 16 years old and over who compete at the provincial level or higher and experience mental health challenges. Ambassadors for the CCMHS include professional hockey player Ben Meisner. To say you would be in good hands is an understatement.

As athletes, it’s important to continue to prioritize your mental health beyond the tight circle of physicians you meet during recovery, even through something as simple as having a positive conversation with a close friend or someone going through the same situation as you are.

Stella’s Place is located in downtown Toronto, and is a mental health organization for young adults between the ages of 16 and 29 that offers a variety of creative mental health services and spaces. For instance, Stella’s Studio is an “arts-based community” where peers can “create and share art.” There is also a café where you can grab coffee, finish up work in a safe and welcoming environment, and even meet up with those you met during your classes to hang out. 

The road to recovery doesn’t just stop there. You can also download BeanBagChat, an app operated by Stella’s Place, through which you can receive individual support from staff.

Your story will one day change someone else’s life. Going through a rough patch simply means you were made to be a storyteller and grow into a more powerful, influential individual than you could have ever imagined. Books have sequels, and your new chapter could start today.

Students tackle barriers to addressing mental health issues at national Jack.org summit

Organization aims to give students resources to address problems at schools

Students tackle barriers to addressing mental health issues at national Jack.org summit

More than 250 students from every Canadian province and territory attended the National Jack Summit in downtown Toronto from March 1–3 to discuss mental health supports for students. The National Jack Summit is a Canada-wide conference hosted by the charity Jack.org, which funds support and training for students to combat mental health challenges in their communities.

The goals of the summit included educating students on developing techniques to help those facing mental health challenges, learning how resources and barriers to addressing mental health issues differ across the country, and creating very specific plans of action to bring back to their communities.

Federal Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor delivered a welcome address for the event. She discussed her personal experiences when her brother received a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia in the 1980s, her over two decades of experience as a social worker, and her work to expand services for mental health treatment as the federal health minister.

She thanked students representing the charity for their advocacy work and dedication, and expressed excitement for their future plans in supporting others facing mental health issues.

Loss of son in first year of university led to founding of charity

Eric Windeler, a co-founder of Jack.org, spoke with The Varsity about the motivation behind the charity. He said that he and his wife founded the charity after the loss of their son, Jack Windeler, during his first year at Queen’s University in March 2010.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t know, but he was struggling with his mental health… we lost Jack by suicide. We only found out from the call from… a police officer.”

The family realized that if they could lose a child to mental health challenges, “it can happen to anybody.” After running a two-year pilot project with Kids Help Phone, they learned that “young people were kind of being left out of this conversation” on mental health.

Since then, Jack.org has become a national charity with 32 staff and almost 3,000 youth volunteers. Representatives of the charity train volunteers on “how to be responsible advocates” for good mental health.

Volunteers are then empowered to identify barriers to addressing mental health issues in their communities, and design initiatives to break down these barriers to “good mental health and good mental health conversations.” This often involves providing educational sessions, connecting students to support services, and advocating on behalf of students.

University of Toronto represented at summit

Amy Wang, a network representative for Toronto and UTSC student, discussed how she became involved with Jack.org and the unique challenges that students at UTSC face.

She spoke about how she struggled with mental health during her first and second years of university. She had a lot of family issues and academic struggles, but she “knew that it wasn’t just [her] feeling this way,” and wanted to make a difference on campus.

These experiences pushed her toward mental health advocacy and Jack.org. “I wanted to let other people know that it’s okay to struggle, as long as you do get the help that you need,” she said. “I want to be able to make people feel that they’re all able to achieve what they set out [to do].”

To Wang, barriers to mental health that are specific to UTSC relate to “transparency with academic policies, mental health policies, and even just navigating the academic landscape as something that’s needed.” She recalled the difficulty of transitioning from high school to university and “would love to see more programs or supports in place” to help students overcome these barriers.

On the advocacy front, another issue specific to U of T students resulted from the university-mandated leave of absence policy passed last year, said Wang. The policy can mandate students to halt their studies if their mental health “poses a dangerous, physical risk to themselves or others.”

While Wang noted that “the intention behind it is to protect students,” she feels that “the policy still needs a lot of work to essentially communicate that we’re working with the students and not against them.”

To Wang, advocacy to revise the policy to provide clearer guidance to students placed on leave would provide better support to students at U of T.

UTSU holds event on impact of anti-Black racism on mental health

Discussions centred around intersectionality, barriers in academia

UTSU holds event on impact of anti-Black racism on mental health

The University of Toronto Students’ Union held an event titled “Anti-Black Racism and Mental Health” on February 15 as part of its annual eXpression Against Oppression series, coinciding with Black History Month. Closing out a week of events directed at challenging oppression and highlighting the experiences of marginalized people, the event addressed the negative impacts of anti-Black racism and discrimination on mental health.

Rania El Mugammar, a Sudanese-Canadian writer and anti-oppression and liberation educator, hosted and led the discussion.

When asked about why it is important to address the issue of mental health and anti-Black racism in a conversation with The Varsity before the event, Mugammar replied that the dehumanizing effects of racism and the resulting hypervigilance negatively impacts mental health.

“If [it’s] not part of our understanding of [the] mental health crisis and mental health issues then how can we actually address it in a way that helps people find coping mechanisms that work, find treatment plans that work, and find sustainable ways to support themselves and their communities, and also have language to talk about it?”

Mugammar especially stressed the importance of having the language to talk about mental health in her culture.

“I remember when I was younger and all the Black women around me would say, ‘Depression is for white girls,’” Mugammar said.

“We don’t have the luxury of falling apart, right? So it’s not something that’s allowed for us. So we don’t have a language around it and I think it’s really important that we do.”

Addressing this absence through an anti-oppression framework during the event, she discussed the theory of intersectionality, how it concerns Black communities, and why it’s so important to incorporate intersectionality into mental health interventions and conversations.

According to Mugammar, approaches that do not have an intersectional lens end up saying that being a “woman is a white, cis, able-bodied experience. Everyone else is a deviation.”

Due to this belief, she talked at length about how the study of psychology is “rooted in the world of wealthy white men,” and why it’s important to break that barrier and include more people from Black communities when designing mental health supports for them.

When asked by a student how her work aids and supports important academic research in psychology, Mugammar replied that her work does not support the academic community.

Instead, she framed most of her work as “pedestalling and giving [a] platform to community-based interventions and grassroot interventions and culturally relevant interventions that don’t get access to academic spaces.”

She expressed her disdain and distrust of academia by pointing out that the very “fathers” of psychology and mental health studies are from “a very particular social location,” adding that the “roots of this tree are rotten.”

Instead, she said that she needs to know the social location from which the researcher speaks: “who the researcher is, what their purpose is, etc.”

Mugammar also addressed the issue of intergenerational trauma in Black communities as the last topic of the night.

According to Mugammar, one cannot talk about mental health in Black communities without addressing intergenerational trauma, because intergenerational trauma can seriously impact mental health.

“Trauma fucks with you,” she said.

Okay, U of T, let’s talk

But put your money where your mouth is — invest in mental health services

Okay, U of T, let’s talk

Content warning: discussion of suicide.

Paralleling the annual “Bell Let’s Talk” campaign, a “Let’s Talk UTM” event will take place on January 30. There are wall posters across UTM encouraging students, staff, and faculty to open up about their struggles with mental health. This kind of event aims to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

U of T’s promotion of “Bell Let’s Talk” is nothing new, and the focus on awareness and conversation-based initiatives, as with the recent Mindfest event, appears to be favoured. There is no question that enabling students to speak without shame and educating people on the seriousness of mental illness are important.

However, these alone are not sufficient. When it comes to mental health, U of T can’t just talk the talk. It must walk the walk, by providing adequate services, resources, and allyship to students who are struggling. Otherwise, these events amount to token gestures designed to market the university as an institution that values mental health, without actually making the necessary material investment.

Mental illness is a growing problem on campuses, and services intended to deal with it are operating over capacity. Consider the dramatic increase in student registration at Accessibility Services in recent years for mental health reasons. Perhaps this is an indication that mental health initiatives, designed to reduce the stigma, are working. Students, rightly, are told that they aren’t alone and that it is okay to seek help.

But when they do seek help, students aren’t met with the kind of support they are promised. Instead, they face long wait times for appointments, and caps on the number of counselling sessions they are allowed to receive from university health care providers.

Time and resources allocated to operating mental health campaigns should be matched with hiring more counsellors and mental health nurses. Although the limit on appointments at Health & Wellness per year has not been verifiable, the personal experiences of Varsity masthead and contributors suggest that UTM has a cap of five, UTSC has a cap of eight, and UTSG has a cap of 10.

One of the most common forms of therapy is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), CBT is a common form of psychotherapy that takes a thought-based approach. This means that individuals are taught to develop skills and strategies to improve their mental health.

CAMH indicates that CBT can be beneficial if done in six to 20 sessions. But given U of T’s caps, students who build the strength and courage to attend counselling will likely not benefit from CBT. The same applies to other forms of counselling. The sessions won’t be effective if students are restricted to a certain number of visits. Students who reach their cap are advised to seek counselling outside the university.

Although students are automatically enrolled in a health insurance plan, which would pay for a portion of these appointments, the amount provided through insurance is not always enough to cover the entire cost. This means that counselling services remain out of reach for some students, especially those who are financially insecure. Additionally, there is a cap on the amount of money students may receive through insurance in a single policy year — leaving students alone, once again, when their policy runs out.

The very willingness of students to access mental health services has likely also been compromised since the approval of the university-mandated leave of absence policy (UMLAP) last summer.

According to the university, the UMLAP is a positive step toward better mental health on campus. Under the UMLAP, students experiencing mental health issues that the university believes interfere with their studies, or pose a threat to themselves or others, can be asked to leave the university until they are able to demonstrate that they are mentally well enough to continue their schooling.

The Varsity’s editorial board has expressed concern about the UMLAP in the past. It takes away students’ autonomy, and its existence likely deters students from seeking help in fear of the policy’s consequences. Revealing too much could result in students being asked to leave the school.

This is the university’s answer, even though a student may simply prefer a middle ground of better accommodation while still progressing in their degree, pursuing extracurricular activities, and remaining in a social space and support network on campus — all of which can boost their mental health.

Ironically, then, the UMLAP does not address the problem. Rather, it re-stigmatizes mental illness and forces students to face their challenges alone. The application of this policy completely contradicts the messages of encouragement and support peddled through university-run mental health campaigns.

When somebody died by suicide last June at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology, it was a grave reminder of the reality of students’ struggles with mental health. And when the university still chose to approve the UMLAP just days after this incident — and on top of significant student opposition — it revealed a severe lack of judgement and sensitivity toward campus affairs.

U of T would much rather pretend that there is no mental health crisis on campus, because it likely fears that such a revelation would compromise its reputation and deter student enrolment, ultimately affecting the university’s bottom line. It would much rather pathologize, isolate, and remove vulnerable students who challenge U of T’s sterling reputation.

But mental illness is not exogenous to the university. Surely, cultures of stigma toward mental illness and an emphasis on competitive academics, for which U of T needs to take responsibility, produce students with mental illness.

If the university were to adequately invest in services and policies that encourage openness and properly accommodate students, it could help students reach their potential and strengthen the academic reputation it prioritizes so much. It could even bolster U of T’s image as a benevolent institution that cares about its students, and thereby stimulate enrolment.

To this end, doing better for the mental health of students is also a matter of self-interest — even though it shouldn’t be — and is financially within reach if the university makes it a priority in their multibillion dollar budget.

If U of T is going to encourage students to open up about their struggles, the university should adequately respond and support them when they do. Students need access to mental health resources, and not in the form of toques or self-care bags. So, okay U of T, let’s talk — but put your money where your mouth is.

The Varsity’s editorial board is elected by the masthead at the beginning of each semester. For more information about the editorial policy, email editorial@thevarsity.ca.

The year of you

Five steps to making a positive outlook permanent

The year of you

What if I told you that you had the power to make 2019 the year of you? Ultimately, your outlook on 2019 can only shift when your mindset does. A properly fuelled body and positive mindset will work wonders for an overall state of healthy well being and mental health.

To improve your mood, mindset, and achieve peak productivity, here are five things you should turn into habits this semester.

A positive outlook starts with you.

1. Be positive

Research shows that the way in which we think about ourselves can have a powerful effect on the way we feel. According to Psychology Today, “when we perceive our self and our life negatively, we can end up viewing experiences in a way that confirms that notion.” Be patient with yourself and write down realistic steps to achieving personal goals.

2. Exercise

Go out and be active! Dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes a day to physical activity and your mind and body will feel refreshed. While working out, our bodies release stress-relieving and mood-boosting endorphins, making exercise a powerful way to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.

3. Go to bed on time

Research has shown that not getting enough sleep has a negative impact on mood. Caffeine is just a temporary fix for not dozing off in class, and I’m sure a lot of us can relate. Maintaining a pattern of sleep and a technology-free hour before bed can make a huge difference.

4. Take a break

While the life of a student is an extremely hectic one, it’s important to take a few moments to breathe and relax. Utilize study breaks and listen to the needs of your body and mind. When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, take the necessary time to breathe.

Taking a step away from whatever is stressing you out will result in you coming back to the issue more clearheaded.

5. Be social. Laugh!

People function better when they have strong social ties with friends and family. Positivity is contagious when you surround yourself with the right people. Create lifelong memories and be sure to laugh as often as possible, as laughter can reduce stress and increase your ability to learn.