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FGS notice: Supporting grad students' mental health

Posted by Faculty of Graduate Studies on November 2, 2020 in News

To:       Faculty and Staff, Faculty of Graduate Studies

From:  Emily Huner, Assistant Vice-Provost, Student Affairs and Marty Leonard, Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies

Date:     Monday, November 2nd, 2020
Re:        Supporting graduate students’ mental health at Dal
Dear Colleagues,
At the best of times the life of a graduate student can be stressful. Managing relationships with supervisors, the pressures of rigorous programs, concerns about careers and financial stability all have impacts on their mental health. Add to this the anxiety of navigating the changes associated with the pandemic, and we can anticipate our students needing an additional level of support.
We are reaching out to you because of the important role you play in the lives of our students as supervisors and close advisors. Below you will find resources to help you support our students and to guide those students who may require resources provided by Dalhousie Student Health & Wellness.

Training and Workshops for Faculty and Staff
Faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in the following student health and wellness professional development opportunities.

  • Mental Health 101 is a short, informative presentation developed for university faculty and staff to increase awareness and understanding of mental illness and mental health problems in students.
  • Communications for Complex Conversations is a 90-minute workshop that supports faculty and staff in facilitating complex conversations with students who require additional support.

To register for a workshop, see the Employee Calendar. If you have a group interested in participating, you can request one of these presentations online.

Online Resources for Faculty and Staff

Online resources are also available to help faculty and staff respond to students in distress.

  • Dal’s Blue Folder aims to educate faculty and staff on the signs of a student in distress. It outlines the steps required to make a student referral, provides quick access to emergency numbers, and gives information on the resources available to students.
  • Through the Online Student Referral Form, faculty and staff are able to refer a student to Student Health & Wellness. Referrals to the health & wellness team in Halifax are managed by Dalhousie’s Case Manager who will reach out to the referred student to determine next steps to ensure their health needs are met.

Resources to Support Graduate Student Mental Health

Student Health & Wellness offers several mental health resources for students, all of which are now offered virtually.

  • The Graduate Student Drop-in Group is a weekly support group for students wanting to connect with others and learn skills for managing stress.
  • Same-day counselling is also available through the Student Health & Wellness Centre; appointments open up at 8am every day and can be booked online.
  • Students also have access to Good2Talk, a telephone and texting counselling service available 24/7/365.
  • For students studying abroad, the Remote International Health Program gives them access to counselling in their home country.
  • Other mental health supports and resources, including online resiliency and mental health programs, can be found at

New Associate Dean for Student Supervisor Relations

One of the most important relationships a research-based graduate student has is with their supervisor. Despite the importance of this relationship, most supervisors receive no formal training on graduate supervision. To this end, FGS is currently recruiting a new part-time Associate Dean who will provide outreach and education for supervisors to help them develop and maintain positive student supervisor relationships. We are inviting applications for the role until November 4, 2020 and encourage all tenured faculty who are interested to apply. You can read more about the position here.
Thank you for your efforts in supporting the health and wellbeing of our students and our community. If you have any questions about the resources available, please do not hesitate to reach out. Stay well and best of luck with the remainder of the semester.
Emily Huner
Assistant Vice Provost, Student Affairs
Marty Leonard
Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies