Welcome back to the many students returning to our communities this month. As a community with four outstanding post-secondary institutions, we are fortunate to benefit from the infux of talent and perspective these students bring. Student health has been front and centre at the WWLHIN over the past number of years as we have worked with our partners to improve access to student health supports, particularly in mental health.
This year, we developed a student mental health resource focused on “stopping the stigma” with information for students about free and easy access to mental health tools such as Big White Wall (bigwhitewall.ca). This online resource provides immediate access to a peer-support network for students to connect with. The WWLHIN had a booth during student orientation week at our institutions and as students signed up for activities, they also had the opportunity to learn about their local health system and the supports available to them off campus.
No one knows better what support students need than students themselves. This fall, we are creating a Student Health Advisory Committee as a subcommittee of our Patient and Family Advisory Committee. This group of local students will provide insight into how to improve student health, and will help design and test new digital health solutions for students.
Our Mental Health and Addiction nurses are also out in schools working with students and supporting them through the stressful transition to new schools, grades and other challenges. Working closely with schools and school boards, our nurses are an integral part of the school community. The feedback we receive from students about the value these nurses bring to them is incredibly powerful. Many students share how hopeless they felt and how these nurses believed in them when they couldn’t themselves.
While some students may only join our community for a short time, we hope they will stay a long time. By helping students become valued members of our community, engaging them in community activities and organizations, and supporting them with community resources, we can reduce the isolation some students feel and hopefully encourage them to choose Waterloo Wellington as their current and future home.