A Message from UTM's Medical Director

By Dr. Erin Kraftcheck, Medical Director, Health & Counselling Centre

Welcome to our first HCC newsletter!  We are excited to highlight health, wellness, and event information in a new format, allowing you to review information that may be of interest to you on your own schedule.  We hope that our highlighted articles each issue will allow you to increase your health and wellness knowledge, and we welcome you to follow up with appointments at our clinic if you are seeking additional information on any of our featured topics.   We will highlight tips and information from each of the teams in our department – Nursing, Counselling, Dietetics, Administration, and Health Promotion.

This past year has not been easy for anyone.  Some of us have been more affected than others.  I, myself, have cried, I have been angry, I have been scared, I have laughed…and I have cried some more.  Life during a pandemic is HARD.  Many have felt isolated and lonely.  Most people have needed to develop entirely new ways of coping to the intense uncertainty and stress brought on by the past year.   Developing and increasing our coping skills allows us to strengthen our resilience.  Resilience: a word we regularly hear, and most of us understand as a basic concept.  Have you thought about what it means to you?  (AND - did you know that the HCC has a workshop series on “Building Resilience”?).

More people than ever seem to be more open to discussing mental health, and seeking ways to increase their resiliency and wellbeing.  For me, some days this looks like physical activity, and getting outdoors into the local trails.  On other days, this means curling up in leggings and a sweatshirt and curling up with a good book.  Some days it means trying new recipes, and some days it means stress cleaning.  SOME days…it means binge watching Netflix until Netflix embarrasses me with the “are you still watching?” screen, and that means it’s time to crawl to bed and try to put the day permanently behind me.  What I have learned about some of those more challenging days is that my body is really trying to tell me something.  I have learned to listen, and better understand my own limits, a powerful component to being resilient.  I have readjusted who my supports are; different people offer different types of supports in stressful situations, and this past year was a test like no other.  It is important that we don’t take these kinds of changes as a sign of personal failure.

Despite the countless difficulties over the past year, there have been so many amazing examples of kindness and compassion.  I am so incredibly proud of all of the staff at the HCC who adapted overnight to an entirely different way of practicing medicine, and providing mental health support.  We continue to offer individual appointments with physicians, counsellors, the dietitian, and psychiatrists in a virtual format.  We recreated our entire health promotion program into an entirely virtual model, including our annual Be Well UTM: Resource and Activity Fair into an entirely online format with over 300 people in attendance.

We continue to engage with our students through health promotion and support offerings to listen, and hear what is needed.  We have developed a large complement of psychoeducational and skills-based workshops to address the mental health and wellness needs of our community, both synchronously and asynchronously.  We have launched an amazing peer support program, with a variety of ways to engage with HCC-trained peers (individual sessions, and peer-led workshops; we also have wonderful peer drop-in times on Tuesdays).

I hope that you will enjoy perusing our articles in this Spring Newsletter.  We hope you will send us topics you would like to see us cover in future newsletters.  We will regularly provide updates on our health promotion programming and events, and showcase different components of our team and the work we do to support the physical and mental wellbeing of our entire UTM community.  Until next issue, I hope you will make time to get outdoors as the weather warms up and we roll into Spring.  Good luck to all of you in finishing up this Winter 2021 semester!