Launching of UTM Wellness Centre & Counselling Unit21/06/2022 2022-06-21 14:04
Recognition of mental health as a key attribute towards a healthy society and workplace has gained much momentum following the inclusion of mental health and substance abuse as part of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations in 2015; aiming to improve the mental health status through worldwide awareness and sensitization. Such a change is expected to have a ripple effect in a global landscape where approximately 13% of the population is known to live with a mental disorder and plagued with a yearly death rate of 8 million associated to mental illnesses. Addressing mental health in social environments where the related barriers and threats are largely overlooked has become a matter of international priority; especially in the aftermath of the Covid-19 impact. Indeed, mental health related absenteeism and poor performance at work is a known facet in the professional sphere as reflected by work induced stress or depression exhibited by more than 94% of the US and UK workforce. Similarly, mental health across university students has been deteriorating with almost 90% experiencing anxiety in the UK and these figures have not improved post COVID-19. Mental distress, both across the workforce and student population has been potentiated as a result of the social isolation and financial burden trailing the pandemic. As a concerned tertiary institution, with a student-centered approach, the University of Technology, Mauritius (UTM) has risen to the challenge of facilitating access to mental health support through the launching of a wellness centre and establishment of a counselling unit. The mechanisms supporting the proper functioning of the counselling unit have been designed and implemented to support confidentiality and accessibility to members of the staff in an effort to mitigate the stemming of workplace-related mental distress. The wellness centre launched through a whole day event on the 9th of October 2020 in the wake of the World Mental Health Day, was marked by great success through the lens of both students and staff. The event, sponsored by a number of private and public stakeholders, including the Government Printing, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Panagora Ltd, Quadis, R&R Rapid Services and Surat SKC, coupled with in-house contributions were pivotal to the success of the event. Students were exposed to the disruptors of the social sphere such as stigmatization of help-seeking and substance abuse; and through our invited speakers with expertise in psychology, were presented with life hacks on nurturing mental health through simple lifestyle changes. Key components in mediating healthy habits such as the dietary requirements were also highlighted and this was further supported by an introduction to Ayurveda as part of a holistic approach to enhance wellbeing. Students had the chance to gain a deeper understanding of the consequential effects related to illicit substances and sexually transmissible diseases; awareness sessions delivered by representatives from the National Aids Secretariat and ADSU division of the Mauritius Police Force. This event marked the first of many more to be organized under the Wellness Centre to substantially improve overall health across the campus, while we also endeavor to give back to society through an active engagement in the form of community support mediated by our Wellness platform. This further reiterates the commitment of the University of Technology, Mauritius to the notion of ‘no health without mental health’ and our long term goals of eliminating the taboo of help-seeking and blindsiding mental health given that the institution should not be regarded as a mere ‘graduate factory’ but rather as a micro-ecosystem where the student requires both educational and psycho-social elements to thrive.