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UOHS reaches out to students with multi-faceted awareness event

Photo: Rémi Yuan. Edits: Marta Kierkus. Caribbean Hammocks – Photo: Joe Shlabotnik, CC flickr.com

It takes more than an apple a day to keep the doctor away.

The University of Ottawa dedicated the week of Nov. 17–21 to promoting a wide-ranging approach to wellness that includes mental, physical, and social well-being.

The inaugural Wellness Week’s activities included live demonstrations on how to make nutritious smoothies or salad dressings, physical fitness challenges, lectures on topics such as time management and battling the anxieties that may come with public speaking—and timeless favourites like pet therapy and free massages.

Kristine Houde, manager of Health Promotion at the University of Ottawa Health Services (UOHS), said the idea started very small but grew into something even bigger. Human Resources approached UOHS in the summer to do a Wellness Week, and they then approached Community Life Service to partner for planning the event. “We’re hoping that next year we’ll be able to reproduce the same thing again,” she said.

Over the four years she’s worked with UOHS, Houde said she’s noticed a common problem is that students in distress simply may not know about services that could be helpful to them. Wellness Week sought to change that.

UOHS has previously held a mental health fair one day per semester, among other initiatives, but they wanted an event that would cover more ground.

“We’re talking about mental health, but we’re talking about total wellness as well. So it’s mental health, physical health, and social health, social well-being,” Houde said.

“This idea, the joint initiative for profs, employees, and students … that’s where I really feel that this is a better experience than our fair.”

The interdisciplinary event also featured the participation of Campus Sustainability, Sports Services, Food Services, the Graduate Students’ Association, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa, and the Student Academic Success Service (SASS).

Murray Sang, program director for SASS, encourages students to check out what the organization provides, such as Access Service for students who may have mental health challenges. “We were happy to see mental health be de-stigmatized with Wellness Week for students who need support to come and get it,” he said. SASS offers counselling services by appointment to help students deal with stress, anxiety, and more.

Houde said it’s important to know that help is there when you need it, and encouraged students to visit UOHS at UCU 203 any time they need support.