The new mental health committee will be focused on promoting mental health resources available at the university. Image: Dasser Kamran/Fulcrum.
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New mental health committee created following release of UOSU fall survey results

The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) held their monthly Board of Directors (BOD) meeting on Jan. 17. The meeting was attended by UOSU’s executive team and the directors from each faculty.

The director for the faculty of civil law, Nickolas Eburne, proposed the addition of a new ad-hoc mental health outreach committee to promote and support the pre-existing mental health resources at the University of Ottawa. 

The UOSU’s Executive Committee also shared the results of the union’s fall survey with the BOD. The questionnaire was created to field concerns from students and help the UOSU adapt its advocacy agenda to address these concerns. 

Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s advocacy commissioner spearheaded the campaign which saw a total of 1,142 students respond. The survey period lasted a month from Sept. 19 to Oct. 19, 2020. 

The survey revealed that 80 per cent of respondents want the UOSU to prioritize mental health during the 2020/2021 academic year. 

Gulliver noted that the new ad-hoc committee was not created because of these findings, however, the two will complement each other as work on the mental health outreach committee is done. 

The mental health outreach committee will include members of the Peer Help Centre and Wellness World. The hope is for the committee to promote University of Ottawa mental health resources. 

The motion to create the ad-hoc committee listed the goal as: “Be it resolved that the UOSU create an ad-hoc mental health outreach committee whose mandate will include communication and outreach of the services offered by the Peer Help Centre and other mental health services, including but not limited to, WellnessWorld.”

In response to the survey findings, Gulliver said “the survey results reflect our commitment to transparency and consults with students about our advocacy priorities including the kind of union we want to be.”

Eburne shared his experiences and explained why he believed the creation of such a committee will help students. 

“I have myself, felt alone and lost in the past while trying to navigate the [U of O mental health resource] system. [This has] pushed me to advocate on behalf of students concerning the accessibility of mental health resources on campus.”

Eburne also touched on the effects of the pandemic, reaffirming the committee’s commitment to the students. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has limited and seriously diminished the communication between the university and the student community. The mental health outreach committee will work hard to find new methods to communicate the many ways in which students can access mental health services online as uOttawa students.”

Amina el-Himri, the UOSU’s student services commissioner, will co-chair the new committee with Eburne, they will be joined by Michelle Liu, the director for the faculty of common law; Sam Yee, the director for the faculty of sciences; Zaina Abusayma, the director of the faculty of social sciences; and Chloé Richard, the director for the faculty of engineering as well as workers from mental health resources on campus such as WellnessWorld.  

In order to ensure the committee is properly promoting mental health resources on campus they have pledged to do the following:

  1. “Uses various means of communication of the UOSU such as email and other means to promote the services offered by the Peer Help Center and other mental health services;
  2. Reserves the right to collaborate with the Mental Health and Wellness Advisory Committee of the University of Ottawa; Prepare a report to the Board of Directors in a future BOD meeting.”

The importance of mental health has not gone unnoticed by Eburne and el-Himri.  

“Recognizing the importance of this issue at the present time, this committee will have to be proactive and effective over time, thus ensuring that information concerning the Peer Help Centre and other mental health services is put forward in a better way,” said Eburne.

Gulliver concluded that he was excited to work with the new ad-hoc committee and Eburne on the path to prioritize mental health on the University of Ottawa campus.