The past two years have been a traumatic period for many. As the novel coronavirus spread around the world, changing and adapting, sparking new variants of concern, people and governments reacted and responded, attempting to change and adapt just as quickly. And we’re still adapting.
During the pandemic, we witnessed our health care system stretch, with some of us becoming sick ourselves, or watching and worrying about loved ones as they became ill with the virus (not all of them making a full recovery). Many experienced financial stress in the form of lost jobs or businesses. Many employees began working from home, forcing parents to work and provide caregiving duties in tandem. We experienced or witnessed those already marginalized by our system become further marginalized. We underwent periods of isolation, deep uncertainty, anger, frustration, and helplessness. In the post-secondary sector, university faculty and students were thrown into learning online before many felt prepared to do so. So many changes in such little time took their toll on our personal and collective mental health, so we sought coping strategies and resources on how best to adapt to our new reality.
The Adapting to COVID-19 Website
In the early days of the pandemic, BCcampus launched an online repository for students, staff, and faculty throughout the province that offered support and resources to help with mental health concerns as well as financial relief, safety, personal rights, and the pivot to online learning and teaching. As restrictions lessen once again, and as the world begins moving on with the acceptance this virus might be here to stay, our adaptation to the new world it has created continues. Perhaps “pandemic panic” has ended, but its mental health effects still linger. Luckily, our Adapting to COVID-19 resources are still available and still very much relevant.
Mental Health Webinars and Resources
We created the Adapting to COVID-19 website to be a place where anyone involved in post-secondary education in B.C. can go to learn about the ways in which COVID-19 might impact them. We added new content iteratively and regularly in those early days. Due to its substantial adoption, we were able to create frequent webinars, connecting with both learners and educators to find out where they needed the most support. Each session was recorded for those who could not attend or so attendees could go back and revisit the session. The webinars held space for a diverse group of folks in the sector to come together and share ideas, experiences, and challenges. The aim of the mental health-focused webinars was to recognize it was normal and natural for our stress levels to rise during these trying times but to also remind us there are things we can do to minimize this stress.
The webinars provided tools for coping with the pandemic through sessions on mindfulness practice, strategies for dealing with anxiety, and sometimes where the aim was to just have some fun and be together. Diversity and inclusion were intentionally placed at the forefront throughout the consultation of this project, and thus we created webinars that focused specifically on allyship, the challenges facing international learners, and supporting LGBTQ2S+ students in the time of COVID-19.
The time of COVID-19 continues. Recent data collected by Mental Health Research Canada found that Canadians’ self-rated anxiety and depression levels remain higher than they were at the beginning of the pandemic, with 23 per cent of Canadians indicating high anxiety and 15 per cent indicating high depression.
Below is a full list of the webinars related to mental health on the Adapting to COVID-19 website so you may peruse the session recordings for the topics relevant for you. Throughout the recordings and resources, we hope you find practical solutions and information for helping you maintain your mental health as we enter this third year of living with, and adapting to, COVID-19.
Mental Health Webinars:
A myriad of difficult issues is facing us all during these times of pandemic. This webinar we discusses issues related to fear and anxiety, sharing with you strategies that foster healthy mental well-being during these trying times.
Explore how you can use self-compassion in these uncertain times. In this session, participants practiced some self-compassion exercises, imagined how you to weave them into real-life, and shared ideas and feedback with the rest of the group.
In the midst of a global pandemic, social distancing has equated to feelings of social isolation that can be particularly pronounced for LGBTQ2S+ students. In this session, we created space to connect, share ideas, and build community in the post-secondary LGBTQ2S+ community.
During this webinar we discussed the impact of trauma, what it is to be trauma-informed, and how to integrate approaches from trauma-informed practice in order for members of our college/university community to identify coping strategies that will work for them.
With the launch of Here2Talk, B.C.’s new 24/7 mental health counseling and referral service for post-secondary students, we are pleased to share an online question-and-answer session with Ministry staff and the Here2Talk service provider. This session offered an overview of the program and the different modalities available to access Here2Talk services.
This session provided an opportunity to bring those working in B.C.’s post-secondary sector together to learn how to recognize burnout and explore some strategies to guard against it.
In this session we discussed some of the challenges faced by international students and how they have been impacted by the pandemic.
Adapting to COVID-19: Innovative Approaches to Supporting the International Student Experience (Part 2)
We were able to learn and share with representatives from four post-secondary institutions in B.C. in a three-part webinar series. This second session focused on some of the innovation these institutions have implemented to provide support to international students in creative ways.
In this webinar the facilitators engaged in an interactive session to workshop and brainstorm together with participants how we can better provide virtual onboarding and orientation for international students prior to the start of and during their studies in the fall, including opportunities for collaboration with colleagues to support all students at our institutions.
This webinar was facilitated by members of UBC Counselling and the UBC Wellness Centre to assist graduate students in identifying and managing their competing roles and priorities encountered during their studies and research. This already challenging balancing act is further complicated during the current pandemic.
This one-hour webinar explored how to create and build community in online learning environments. Learn how your existing practice can be supported by technology, and understand how to support and connect with students in this uniquely challenging teaching moment.
This one-hour drop-in session built upon the information provided in the webinar on building community and enacting care in online environments above.
Adapting to COVID-19: Teaching and Practice Adaptations to Support Student Mental Health and Well-Being
Given the magnitude of issues related to mental health and substance use on campus pre-COVID-19, the widely recognized psychological impacts of the pandemic itself, and the public health response, it is imperative for campuses to plan ahead and address the associated policy and practice implications of COVID-19 as we head into the fall.
In this session participants were introduced to the key principles of mindfulness and learned how to cultivate mindful awareness through meditation, relational practices, and activities in daily life.
With COVID-19 many of us find ourselves for long stretches in our home workspaces and not getting to the gym. This webinar helped us to learn some tips and tricks about creating an ergonomic home workspace and some exercises for both strengthening and stretching your body.
This one-hour webinar took place during Mental Health Week where we explored this question: What if the world could be as none of us expected (or chose), and it was possible for us to be well anyway? We drew on the wisdom of the human experience while using skills from the world of dialectical behavioral therapy to understand how this might be possible.
Adapting to COVID-19: Continuing the Discussion on Teaching and Practice Adaptations to Support Student Mental Health and Well-Being
Given the magnitude of issues related to mental health and substance use on campus pre-COVID-19, the widely recognized psychological impacts of the pandemic, and the resulting public health response, it is imperative for educators and service providers to adapt and address challenges through consideration of associated policy and practices.
A “Fun Friday” with Gurdeep as he taught us bhangra, and participants could join in on the activity from home. Participants were encouraged to wear something comfortable and make space to dance.
During this session Jed Palad taught participants a TikTok dance and went over the basics of how to post a video on TikTok as well as various other features of the app. Watch this session to let loose and have fun!
UBC Health Promotion and Education, SFU Health Promotion, and BCcampus were proud to host Thriving Beyond Campuses: Well-being in Learning Environments, a dialogue series connecting B.C. post-secondary schools. The partnership aligned with the efforts of BCcampus to engage faculty and educators to support student mental health and well-being during COVID-19 as part of the COVID-19 Mental Health project.
HM|HC invited campus stakeholders and community partners to attend the February 22–25, 2021, summit — We Belong to Each Other: Cultivating Campus Communities for Mutual Well-Being. This summit was an opportunity for our community of practice to come together once again in our collective pursuit of mental well-being and healthy relationships with substances on post-secondary institutions in B.C.
Mental Health Resources:
- Institution-Specific Mental Health Supports
- Mental Health Self-Assessment Tool
- Virtual Mental Health Supports for Youth
- Supporting the Mental Health of Others During COVID-19
- Virtual Counselling Services
- Stress Management
The Here2Talk service is a free support resource offered to students currently registered with a B.C. post-secondary school and was created alongside the Adapting to COVID-19 website. The Here2Talk site and app offer 24/7 support with experienced professionals and is free to students, with no appointment needed.