The GSS Office is open. For COVID-19 pandemic updates and support information for UBC graduate students, click here

Our Vision

Many factors contribute to student mental health problems from academic workload and finance, to lifestyle and uncertainties about a future after graduation. It’s not enough to address the individual symptoms. We need to think about things differently. The GSS advocates for a campus wide effort to give students the tools to manage their feelings and an environment to succeed.

Areas of Focus

Student Work-Life Balance

The learning environment and support from the faculty/department/colleagues directly impacts students’ mental health. Thus, by re-shaping and altering the learning environment and campus experience, the university can play a significant role in influencing the student experience towards learning, achieving as well as performing successfully after graduation.

There are many ways in which the university can help pave a stronger experience and well-being environment for the students. Some of the key elements that GSS supports and aims to create include:

  1. Supporting and strengthening the student-supervisor relationship
  2. Providing an environment of understanding and comfort for students from all backgrounds/nationalities
  3. Helping students deal with academic and financial stress, providing healthy outlets for student well-being
  4. Increasing student engagement and communication to help them support each other as a group

Campus-Wide Mental Health Strategy

The results of the most recent GSS Graduate Student Survey illustrate the complex mental health problems students face:

25% of students feel that they are physically unable to perform in classes, 33% of students indicated concerns regarding mental health, with respondents attributing this added stress to multiple factors including: academic workload (55%), preparation for life after graduation (50%), finances (40%). 60% of the respondents claim that they face unhealthy levels of stress, while a majority believe that this negatively effects their academic performance.

A Mental Health and Well-being Policy for all

Developing clear policies and procedures that allow students to access services and support without fear of stigma and that approach mental health seriously and sensitively.

Early Identification and Response

Multilevel response structure needs to be adapted by universities to address all types of mental health challenges, from foundational to intensive.

Providing Direct Service and Support

Providing a range of mental health services that are accessible and inclusive, with more counsellors per student and inclusion of external community resources to meet full spectrum of health needs.

Aligning institutional policies and procedures to support mental health services

Teaching and learning methods that foster a sense of community and reduce stress, this includes support for graduate students in their interactions with their supervisors.

Creating, a healthy, friendly campus environment

Fostering a healthy campus community and encouraging a sense of belonging. Peer support and mentorship programs which give an opting out or a deferral option to students suffering from problems.

An inclusive and supportive communication strategy

Ensures students are informed of all services/programs offered at the campus. Creating an easy to follow mental-health road-map that would facilitate students navigation through the available services on-campus.

The GSS advocates for a campus wide mental health strategy that aims to integrate mental wellness in all aspects of campus life, from institutional policies to building design.

Health and Wellness Resources for Graduate Students

GSS

GSS provides HW resources in four major fields: Peer Support, Graduate Student Financial Aid, AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan, and Others.

  • Peer Support supports issues like housing, personal issues, funding, debt, academics, supervision, etc. Peer support is a direct manifestation of the GSS advocacy It can connect students with campus partners, and by advocating for them, GSS can help students with their mental health.
  • Graduate Student Financial Aid (GSFA): aims to support graduate students who are experiencing unforeseen financial hardship at Vancouver Campus. Financial hardship is a significant cause of mental health issues, and GSFA can help students with their mental health.
  • AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan provides extended health and dental coverage, specifically designed for students to cover expenses not covered by basic health care plans. This plan covers costs such as prescription drugs, dental care, travel health coverage, vision care, and more.
  • Others: GSS can also help students on HW directly or indirectly by venue rental (e.g., students and campus partners can host HW workshops in GSS Loft and Thea Koerner House), project/event funding for its Affiliate Organizations (which may be HW-related), and senate meeting where graduate student can discuss HW-related issues. GSS has a wellness and mental health page listing its vision and focus areas.

AMS

AMS provides HW resources for graduate students through its AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan, Student Services, AMS Ombudsperson, Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC), and Others

  • AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan was designed by students for students to take care of expenses not covered by basic health care plans, such as British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan (MSP), equivalent provincial health care plans, and private basic plans. The comprehensive Plan covers prescription drugs, dental care, psychologist visits, travel health coverage, vision care, and much more. 
  • Student Services helps students directly or indirectly with their safety and HW issues. For instance, the AMS Peer Support provides free, confidential, one-on-one peer support for UBC students facing various challenges, including but not limited to mental health, depression, anxiety, etc. AMS Food Bank is an emergency food relief service for UBC students, faculty, and staff in need.
  • Ombudsperson provides conflict resolution services and is an impartial body. This can help students with mental health when they are under conflict-induced mental pressure.
  • SASC provides free and confidential services on sexual assault issues which can be a significant cause of health issues.
  • Others: AMS can also help students on HW directly or indirectly by connecting students with their Resource Groups (some are directly linked to HW issues like LGBTQ identity etc.), providing free menstrual products on campus, Safewalk, etc. Like GSS, AMS also has its Advocacy team that provides information and support to students facing the bureaucratic challenges and disciplinary committees of UBC.

Center for Accessibility (CfA)

CFA facilitates disability-related accommodations and programming initiatives designed to remove barriers for students with disabilities and ongoing medical conditions. The Disability Accommodation Policy LR7 provides guidance for students, faculty, and staff to understand the process through which accommodations for students with disabilities are made at the University.

Specifically, the top reasons to connect with CFA include

  • Learn how your disability or on-going medical condition impacts your learning and participation in UBC activities 
  • Connect with an advisor if you received disability-related accommodations at your previous school
  • Discuss your disability-related considerations for housing, funding, or admission at UBC
  • If you’re already registered with the Centre for Accessibility but your circumstances have changed, or you need to request a new academic concession or disability accommodation

Equity & Inclusion Office (EIO)

EIO advances equity and human rights at UBC by promoting diversity, eliminating discrimination, and engaging the community in dialogue and action. They have a strong focus on student mental health and wellness. They can help through Human Rights Advising, Conflict Engagement Advising, Training & Education, Consultation Services, and Others.

  • Human Rights Advising provides help with concerns related to discrimination on the basis of one or more of the 14 grounds protected by the BC Human Rights Codeand as defined by UBC’s policy SC7: Discrimination.
  • Conflict Engagement Advising supports navigation and resolution of inter-personal conflicts between UBC community members; facilitates contentious group conversations within academic and non-academics units; builds capacity for having difficult conversations and building a healthy culture of conflict engagement.
  • Training & Education works to engage the UBC community in creating culture change and improving systems, practices, and processes that shape how UBC students, staff, and faculty work and learn at UBC.
  • Consultation Services provides help on EDI, communication and engagement, among others.
  • Others: EOI has a Resources page on EDI-related wellness services and Events on EOI topics.

G+PS

G+PS provides HW resources in two ways: a comprehensive resource page and G+PS Health and Wellness.

  • Resource Page lists on-and-off campus resources on urgent crisis and mental health support, food security/support, sexual violence support, safety and security, and online support tools.
  • Health and Wellness list events, services, and resources provided by UBC Wellness Centre (more in the Wellness Centre section), Mitacs Training, and other partners. Specifically, Mitacs Training provides workshops on stress management and other professional courses which may be helpful for students’ physical and mental health concerns.

Human Resources

Many graduate students may also be working as UBC faculty or staff. UBC Human Resources also have HW resources. Specifically, they have the following items:

International Student Advising (ISA)

ISA helps international students with their visas, study permit, work permit, and other international-student issues, which may cause stress and wellness issues. They also help students understand their health insurance coverage, and they have an International Student Guide that lists many HW resources.

Office of the VP Student

Office of the VP Student has a Health and Wellbeing section on their website. However, it seems they do not work directly on HW issues. Instead, they share on-campus resources (e.g., the Wellbeing Strategic Framework) and direct students to related services.

Ombuds Office

Ombuds Office works with all UBC community members to ensure students are treated fairly and can learn, work and live in a fair, equitable, and respectful environment. Their consultation services can help students who are under lots of mental pressure

  • provides general resource information and makes appropriate referrals;
  • identifies and explains relevant university processes and policies;
  • facilitates discussions and uses informal channels to seek resolution;
  • works with students to plan strategies and explore options on how best to proceed;
  • provides advice, support, and training to faculty and staff who deal with students; and
  • works to improve systems and develop best practices and procedures

Sexual Violence and Prevention Response Office (SVPRO)

SVPRO is a safe place for faculty, staff, and students who have experienced sexual assault regardless of identity, expression, or orientation, irrespective of when or where it occurred. They can help students find a safe place to stay, arrange academic concessions, coordinate workplace accommodation, explain reporting options, go with people to the hospital, police, or court, and coordinate support services among campus and community partners.

Student Services Health and Wellbeing

UBC student services health and wellbeing are the websites students should approach when having HW issues. It provides service across a wide range of topics.

  • They have an online health support tool where people can answer questions to quickly see options specific to their needs and location instead of browsing resources aimlessly.
  • Student Health Service is where students can visit a doctor, nurse practitioner, nurse, or other medical professional virtually or in-person.
  • Counseling Services is where students can book a Counselling appointment by phone if they are persistently stressed, anxious, or sad. Specifically, they have wellness advising appointments, same-day, single-session counseling, group counseling programs, individual counseling, indigenous students support, and embedded counseling programs. For instance, the Faculty of Medicine now has an embedded counselor from Counseling Services dedicated explicitly to Faculty of Medicine students who may need help on HW issues. Not all departments have a dedicated page for HW issues.
  • Student Assistance Program (SAP) is a free, 24/7 wellness resource for students. Services include personal counseling, life coaching, group programs, and more based on your needs.
  • Nurse on Campus program is a program where students on the Vancouver campus can drop by in-person to ask questions or connect to resources for HW topics.
  • Wellness Helpline helps indigenous students who may need help on HW issues.
  • Wellness Centre focuses on wellness issues.
    • They provide in-person drop-in service, online drop-in service, and online question submission.
    • They have an IBPOC Wellness Mentors program, a pilot program for the 2021/22 academic year that was developed to support the specific wellbeing needs of IBPOC (Indigenous, Black, or Persons of colour) students at the UBC Vancouver campus.
    • They have a Wellness Centre Shop where people can order inexpensive, safer sex, sexual health, and sex toy products online.
    • They also have bookable workshops on wellness topics. G+PS also lists Wellness Workshops on the G+PS website.
    • They offer free health and wellness sessions and events in person and online.
  • The UBC Student Recovery Community (SRC) is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive space for students who are in recovery or curious to explore their relationship with alcohol, drugs, and addictive behaviors. The SRC’s peer support, an evidence-based model, is designed to empower students with lived experience to support one another on their chosen recovery pathway. The community supports all recovery paths—from harm reduction to abstinence and everything in between.

Student Services Religion and Spirituality

Religion and spirituality can be crucial in HW life for many students. UBC has three primary spiritual resources:

  • Chaplains at UBC: If you’re curious about a specific faith or want to talk to someone in the religious community on campus, find a chaplain at UBC.
  • Multifaith Prayer Rooms: UBC provides multifaith prayer rooms for UBC Vancouver students of all faiths to pray, meditate, reflect or find quiet on campus.
  • Student-Run Organizations: The AMS has a listing of student-run religious organizations on campus if you’re interested in joining a club and talking to peers about beliefs and spirituality.
  •  

UBC Housing

UBC Housing has a dedicated page on HW resource sharing.

  • Counsellors in Residence program is where people can make an appointment when they are feeling persistently stressed, anxious, or sad.
  • Chaplains in Residence: Chaplains have hours at Walter Gage, Totem Park, Orchard Commons, and Place Vanier one day per week. UBC Chaplainsanswer questions about spirituality and religion and work with Residence Life staff and Nurses on Campus to support programs related to overall health and wellness.

UBC Wellbeing

UBC Wellbeing is a collaborative effort to make the University a better place to live, work and learn through a systems-wide approach to wellbeing across our campuses. The work of UBC Wellbeing is guided by the Okanagan Charter, a shared call to action for partners, leaders, and community members to make campuses become health-promoting institutions; as well as UBC’s Wellbeing Strategic Frameworkour commitment and approach to embedding wellbeing across our university culture and leading action and collaboration locally and globally.

Others Resources

HW is a broader term, and there are so many issues that may trigger an HW problem. For instance, financial hardship may cause lots of pressure and lead to mental health issues. The following services may not have HW on their work agenda. However, the services they provide are also valuable.

  • Tax can be an easy trigger for mental health issues, especially for students who have never filed taxes in Canada before (e.g., new international students); UBC Tax Assistance Clinic (TACS) helps with tax filing, which indirectly helps students with their mental health.
  • Academic Integrity and Research Integrity cases may cause substantial mental pressure on students. UBC Academic Integrity website details how UBC manages Academic Integrity issues and tries to increase awareness of this topic.
  • CUPE 2278 TA Union provides services on how to protect TAs, tutors, and markers’ rights at UBC. If students’ well-being has been impacted by their TA work, they can approach CUPE 2278 for help.

GSS Initiatives

Creating Healthy Campuses

In 2019, the GSS published a report on ‘Creating Healthy Campuses,’ which focused on the mental health issues faced by graduate students at the UBC campus. The report highlighted the need for the university to establish a campus wide mental health strategy to support all aspects of student life. The data from student surveys of GSS, AMS, as well as other Canadian universities, exhibits the dire need to create policies that support students’ mental health and wellbeing as a priority. As per the GSS survey, 1 in 3 graduate student respondents indicate concerns regarding mental illness, while 50% of the students feel that stress negatively impacts their academic performance.

 “Many factors contribute to student mental health problems from academic workload and finance, to lifestyle and uncertainties about a future after graduation. It’s not enough to address the individual symptoms. We need to think about things differently. We need a campus wide effort to give students the tools to manage their feelings and an environment to succeed. Today’s students are tomorrow’s engineers, doctors, business leaders and creatives, enabling them to feel confident in their mental wellness has great benefits for the Province as well as for individuals.”
VP Students, UBC GSS

Graduate Wellness Day

The GSS for the first time plans to organize a Grad Well-being Day, which would focus on a variety of arts and crafts workshops, yoga and mindfulness classes, and information from partners like UBC Wellness Peers, and Body Energy Club. The main idea behind the wellness day is to promote mental health amongst students, introduce them to the resources available on-campus as well as bring graduate students together to form a community to show support to each other through difficult and stressful times. The event also aims to create awareness regarding addiction and recovery on campus.  The first event was planned for March 25, 2020, however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been postponed and will be scheduled in Fall 2020.

Lunch and Learn sessions in collaboration with other campus partners

Mental wellness has been a key topic for our free Lunch and Learn series of events organized for graduate students, which have been a great success amongst the students. Over the year, the sessions emphasized on mental health literacy in a Thrive month collaboration with UBC Health Promotion and Education; and addressed sleep hygiene with the research team from the Smartphone and Sleep Study. The Lunch and Learn sessions focus on a diverse range of topics from planning healthy meals on a budget, to fighting imposter syndrome, addressing power dynamics in supervisory relationships, experiences of minorities on campus, and many more. The idea of theses sessions is to create awareness amongst graduate students and bring in experts from the filed, to help guide them for greater work-life balance.

Seeds collaboration

The GSS has partnered with SEEDS Plant Forward Food Initiative on a pilot project that improves food and nutrition knowledge, around plant-forward food for graduate students. The team are working on develop resources to help grad students eat plant based on a budget. Initial ideas were presented at our March 2020 Lunch and Learn.

#StudentsLetsAct Campaign

Launched in 2018, the campaign is recognized nationally with its hashtag #StudentsLetsAct. During the campaign, post-secondary students across Canada write letters to the Members of Parliament in Ottawa, informing them of their issues and requesting for greater attention from the government. The annual campaign runs from January 30th to February 1st, with an aim to convert mental health conversations into action, helping change the Canadian post-secondary campuses. 21 other post-secondary institutes across Canada participate in this event to help raise awareness regarding mental health.

BC Parliament Advocacy Campaigns

Through advocacy campaigns run with partner student organizations such as ABCS, GSS has raised the issue of mental health and wellbeing of graduate students as one of the most important asks at the BC Parliament. In the 2019 Advocacy Campaign at the BC Parliament, the VP External of GSS in conversations with the BC Premier and the Minister of Education emphasized over the need of the province to create a strong strategy regarding mental health and well-being for students and ensure strict implementation by universities.

COVID-19 Pandemic Response

The GSS stands strong with graduate students’ hardships through the difficult time of the COVID19 pandemic, as they struggle through changed work dynamics. The society is supporting the students through a number of initiatives such as advocating at the university to increase funding support (for both domestic and international students), providing mental-health resources, expansion of the Graduate Student Financial Aid (GSFA), advocating for reduced Summer 2020 tuition fees and providing peer support service.

“The GSS has heard the diverse difficulties that graduate students are experiencing during this time and are working to address them, in particular, financial security and continued enrolment are top priorities.”
—GSS President

Study Room, Thea Koerner House, UBC

GSS Loft, Rm. 4202 of AMS Student Nest, UBC

Leon’s Lounge, Thea Koerner House, UBC

Thea’s Lounge, Thea Koerner House, UBC

Penthouse, Thea Koerner House, UBC