By Jesse Stilwell, January 24 2017 —
In response to increased discussions on mental health, the Werklund School of Education will now offer a mandatory course on wellness. Other faculties should consider adopting this initiative.
According to the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health in Toronto, mental health absences from work cost the Canadian economy $51 billion annually. This shows that the skills needed to encourage and protect the wellness of those around us are vital.
The concepts and skills presented in the Werklund course would benefit students themselves as well as their personal and professional relationships. For example, business students, future lawyers or potential physical therapists in kinesiology will likely find themselves in positions where they are playing an important role in another person’s life. Being able to recognize signs that their employee or client is letting their wellness slide is an important skill both personally and professionally.
For those who will eventually become managers or even Chief Executive Officers, being able to tell when their workplace is becoming a negative social environment and remedy this is pivotal for their success. If an employee at a typical business isn’t the best possible version of themselves due to their mental health, it means the business is also not performing at its full potential either. This can also help lower the costly mental health leaves that Canadians pay for now.
The U of C is already well equipped for this wellness training. The Wellness Centre provides wellness courses but these are not mandatory and many students never hear about or access these resources. Making wellness courses or training mandatory to a variety of degree programs could work alongside the resources that already exist through the Wellness Centre.
The Werklund course will also teach students how to look after their own well-being and encourage them to draw upon the existing resources available to them. This will ensure a larger proportion of students benefit from the resources the university is already paying for.
The long running success of the #BellLetsTalk campaign demonstrates that there is a growing interest in learning about and discussing mental health issues. Students who participate in #BellLetsTalk and the many other mental health initiatives on campus would be excited to have a portion of their education spent learning mental health skills relevant to their own field.
Education students who take the wellness course starting in 2018 will be better prepared for life’s challenges than students who graduate without these skills. Werklund is a leader in the Canadian professional landscape by emphasizing that the skills necessary to protect people’s well-being are also necessary to successful professional careers. This emphasis on mental health and wellness should be praised and expanded across campus and the whole country.