September marks the start of a few very special events: the return of pumpkin spice, cozy sweaters, and the start of classes for university students across the nation. As exciting as the start of the semester is, the stress of looming deadlines, exams, and finding the perfect balance between school and life can be especially difficult for first-year students who are trying to tackle their workloads and stressors of everyday life.
However, with the return of Wellness Classroom Visits, Student Wellness Services aims to offer some reprieve by bringing academic and mental health strategies directly to students in their classrooms, rather than just encouraging them to seek help on their own. Since the launch of the project in 2021, over 280 visits have been facilitated, with over 14,000 students reached.
The Wellness Classroom Visits initiative was founded by Dr. Melissa Boyce, PhD, a professor in the psychology department of the Faculty of Arts. In 2021, she became curious about ways to improve overall wellness on campus. To gather official data, she interviewed 14 undergraduate students as part of a strengths and needs assessment alongside the Campus Mental Health Strategy.
As a result, she outlined objectives which addressed specific concerns that students were facing related to mental health and developed the idea of Wellness Classroom Visits. The initiative launched in fall 2021 as a collaboration between the Campus Mental Health Strategy, Student Wellness Services’ Health Promotion and Outreach Team, and campus partners such as the Student Success Centre.
Wellness Classroom Visits are five-minute presentations conducted in classrooms by peer helpers, which offer various strategies for students in the hopes of improving their study habits and personal wellness.
Wellness topics for fall 2023 include
- Preventing Burnout
- Reducing Anxiety
- Practicing Self-Compassion
- Creating a Self-Care Plan
- Strategies for Prioritizing Wellness
- Mindfulness for Stress Management
The presentations begin with a brief explanation of the topic, followed by an interactive exercise or the introduction of a strategy, and finally a detailed list of campus resources. Exercises can range from prompting students to engage in positive self-talk to practising mindfulness on the spot.
Additional interactive components include asking students for a show of hands based on their personal experiences with mental health and/or academic challenges. Volunteers are also encouraged to briefly share their own personal experiences with said challenges, to develop a rapport with the students.
After the presentations, instructors are sent a list of campus resources along with a handout that summarizes the presentation topic they chose, which they can then share with their students. Additionally, a student feedback survey is provided for instructors afterward. Below is some student feedback from the Winter 2023 semester:
The fact that they presented at the beginning of class time, it shows that the university cares about the mental health of students, helps normalize it and build community.
The presenters reiterated that it was okay to be stressed about exams, and how there are ways we can study well.
It brought the resources we have to light, many people including myself didn’t know they existed.
It made me feel like we’re all in this together.
It is the hope that Wellness Classroom Visits will continue to inspire more students and remind others to take care of their well-being within both their academic and personal lives, and help foster a more positive environment on campus overall.
If you are an instructor interested in requesting a Wellness Classroom Visit for this semester, please see the Wellness Classroom Visits site where the link to the request form is available.