Terms of Reference
The University of Toronto strives to foster a caring and supportive educational environment that supports all aspects of student learning, undergraduate and graduate. Our community, individually and collectively, shares a commitment to mental health, wellbeing, and intellectual development. This shared value is foundational to creating an environment that enables all members to thrive.
In a letter to students, staff and faculty on March 28, President Gertler announced that the University will implement a four-part plan of action on student mental health and wellness: 1) convene a Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health; 2) utilize the Undergraduate Student Educational Experience (USEE) Expert Panel and School of Graduate Studies (SGS) consultations on student experience to provide a foundation to enhance the culture of support for students; 3) engage with our partners in the health system in the Toronto region to better serve students with mental illness; and 4) redouble efforts to impress upon the provincial government the need to provide significantly more resources for university student mental health.
Young adults are experiencing higher levels of stress and reporting higher rates of mental health challenges in recent years. Health Canada reports that 20% of Canadians will experience mental health issues in their lifetime, and that 70% of mental health problems and illness onset occurs during childhood and adolescence – before the age of 25 (Health Canada 2006). In Ontario, approximately 80% of people aged 18-24 attend college or university, highlighting the prevalence of mental illness at post-secondary institutions due to the common age of onset (OUCHA 2017). And, Health Canada reports that suicide is among the leading cause of death in 15-24 year old Canadians. Mental health challenges greatly exacerbate other challenges students commonly face at this stage in life – their first encounter with the demands of post-secondary studies, and for some, their first experience of living away from home.
In response to these challenges, the University has been working steadily to address the needs of our students across our three campuses through collaborative partnerships with on-campus and external community partners. Through the U of T Student Mental Health Framework, launched in 2014 under the leadership of the Provost following extensive consultation with the University community, the University has made progress on several fronts, including the addition of ten new on-site Counsellors in Colleges and Faculties, as well as ten new on-site Accessibility Advisors over the past two years. However, despite the Provost’s allocation of these additional resources, the University has not yet managed to meet the overwhelming increase in demand; on the St. George campus alone, from 2013-14 to 2018-19, the number of students registered with Accessibility Services with a mental health disability has more than doubled.
As a complement to ongoing initiatives, and as a key part of the President’s four-point plan, the President and Provost are convening a Task Force on Student Mental Health to further our shared commitment to creating an environment at U of T that enables all students – including those experiencing mental illness – to thrive.
Academic divisions are encouraged to form their own working groups to look at localized issues of student mental health and wellbeing; the findings from these working groups will feed into and inform the work of the Task Force.
The Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health will consult with students and other stakeholders in our community to review existing services and programs related to student mental health, and to explore potential new solutions in this area. The Task Force will:
- Review mental health service delivery at the University and make recommendations for strengthening such services, particularly with regard to students with mental illness;
- Review the coordination of student supports related to mental health across the University’s three campuses and make recommendations for improving internal coordination;
- Review partnerships with community-based organizations and hospitals and make recommendations for strengthening such external partnerships; and,
- Consider the physical spaces in which mental health services are provided on all three campuses and recommend improvements as necessary.
Professor Trevor Young, Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine
- Professor Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students
- Professor Joshua Barker, Vice-Provost, Graduate Research & Education and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies
- Staff members in the Office of the Vice-Provost, Students will provide project support for the Task Force.
The President, Provost, and Chair invite nominations of students, staff and faculty to join the Task Force. In addition to the Chair, the composition of the Task Force will include:
- Four students (one graduate, one professional, two undergraduate);
- Three faculty members; and
- Three administrative staff members.
Task Force members will have research, scholarly, and/or professional or volunteer experience related to issues of mental health. See full Membership listing on the Student Mental Health Task Force page.
The Task Force will begin its work immediately and will consult widely among individual members of the University community and all stakeholder groups, especially students. The Task Force will present its findings and recommendations to the President and Provost by December 2019.
*Note: membership composition updated in May 2019. Two additional members added: one undergraduate student and one administrative staff member.