I am a graduate student currently working on research for my master’s thesis. I don’t have regular contact with any of my fellow colleagues, so I decided to join a new wellness group at the University of Toronto: Community Wellness Dialogue (CWD).
However, due to the university’s decision to cancel any non-essential gathering, the group’s first meeting had to be called off.
CWD organizer Stephanie Pflugfelder wrote, “I think that the university has an obligation to make tough decisions to protect its students, especially the most vulnerable amongst us. When it comes to CWD, we were disappointed to have to cancel the first group meeting because we feel that especially in trying times like this, it’s important to have a support system you can rely on.”
She also highlighted the importance of groups like CWD in helping to create connections to help “overcome some of life’s big challenges.”
I am currently struggling with anxiety and the pressures of graduate life. I had hoped that by attending the group’s meetings, I would be able to get support from fellow students. But at this time we don’t know when we might be able to have a meeting.
I understand the need to take precautions and prevent students’ exposure to COVID-19. However, that must be weighed against the need for student mental health support. It is especially important when graduate students seek out safe spaces and groups to help them get through the emotional challenges of solitary graduate life.
Considering the university’s aim to promote students’ physical and mental well-being, it needs to carefully think about the impact that these closures can have on struggling students. Many students are far from home and may not have close contact with their local support system, be that classes, group get-togethers, or in-person counselling.
In the future, the university should inform students about potential closures at least a week in advance, to give students more time to plan. I also hope that the university makes an effort to contact students who have sought help in the past, especially those who receive consistent care through the Health & Wellness Centres across campuses.
Ateeqa Arain is a second-year master’s student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.