At our semi-annual Leadership Summit in February, I asked our deans, directors, and department chairs to work in small groups to answer several questions related to how we move forward from the past year to re-engage successfully as a campus community.
The groups came up with many different ideas, but one consistent theme was a concern for mental health. One group observed that we need to find ways to replenish people and relationships. Another noted that we need to recognize trauma, tragedy, and loss. Another spoke of exhaustion after a year with no vacations and, for many, no opportunity to see distant family members.
The demand for mental health services continues to grow on campus, both among students and staff. We’ve seen people struggling with issues of depression and isolation.
Faculty and staff have had to balance a whole new set of responsibilities related to teaching and research with added duties at home – while also worrying about health and safety for themselves, their families, and their students.
Undergraduates have had to navigate challenging academic work. In some cases it’s been harder to comfortably interact with a professor or it’s been harder to create study groups. This year has been particularly difficult for our newest students, whose senior year of high school was also disrupted and for whom this year’s more limited social settings have left them feeling more isolated than they expected.
Graduate students have had to navigate starting research (or keeping it going) while, in many cases, teaching students who have needed additional help and support.
Over this year, we have surveyed our faculty, staff, and students at all levels to better understand their experiences, and we’ve shared the results widely to help our schools, colleges, and individual units and departments create programs that are responsive to our community’s needs.
One such response from Student Affairs is the university’s first Mental Health & Wellbeing Summit, March 11-12. This student idea became reality with keynote speaker Joy Harden Bradford, Ph.D., host of the popular mental health podcast, Therapy for Black Girls. The event is organized by our dedicated staff and students at University Health Services, University Recreation and Wellbeing, and the Center for Healthy Minds. It addresses topics like making a mental health plan, sleep, procrastination, and imposter phenomenon, interspersed with live activities including yoga and meditation.
The summit kicks off a grassroots “week of care,” March 15-19, to encourage self-care and community well-being among UW students, faculty, and staff — both inside and outside the classroom or office. We’re calling this campaign #TakeCareUW.
I invite each of you to explore the activities and resources. You might discover something new or you might have an insight you can share with our campus during this week. Most importantly, please take time to focus on your health and well-being. Take time to pause. Reflect. Celebrate your resilience. I look forward to joining you.
We’ve got this. #TakeCareUW