By David Geselbracht on December 10, 2013
Mahony & Sons pub was packed with people, but not for your typical pub event. Throughout the night on November 4th several talks were given and discussions had on an oft-neglected subject: men’s mental health.
“There’s stigma around mental health in general,” said UBC’s Geoff Soloway, one of the night’s organizers, “But there are some additional and different types of stigmas for men, and being willing to talk about them, and overcoming the different stereotypes, expectations and barriers to reaching out, is important.”
Mental health awareness is something UBC has made a priority. The event – ‘Movember at Mahony’s’ – was a collaboration between the Men’s Depression and Suicide Network, Human Resources, and Thrive, which itself is a week long campaign that promotes mental health on the UBC campus. And since it was November, the event coincided perfectly with the men’s mental health awareness initiative of Movember.
Dr. Marvin Westwood is a professor of counseling psychology and co-founder of the Veterans Transition Program, a group-based therapy program that helps Canadian veterans manage symptoms related to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He described how the stigma around words like depression and suicide often scare men from seeking help when they need it. By approaching the subject differently, he said, his team has achieved incredible results.
Dr. Westwood has found that men just want successful lives with their kids and partners, but when clinical language is used that distances them, or makes them feel like there is something wrong with them – they just won’t seek help.
“What we tend to focus on here is how to help men be successful, and get resources when they need them,” said Dr. Westwood, “Without putting them in a box.”
Tim Laidlaw is a graduate student in psychology at UBC, as well as a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who participated in the Veterans Transition Program. He talked about his experiences in Afghanistan, and his difficulty transitioning back to Canadian society, after spending so much time in a military environment.
“When I came home I didn’t have the tools,” he said. “I didn’t know how to ask for help, and I didn’t even know the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.”
Laidlaw said this lack of knowledge doesn’t just extend to military men, but men in general. And if there is anything he learned from his time at the Veterans Transition Program – which is applicable to all men – it’s that getting men to start asking for help is the first step to solving their mental health issues.
In between each speaker, the audience was given around ten minutes to discuss mental health issues, sharing their own experiences and listening to each other’s stories.
Soloway heard many positive conversations and believes the event was an excellent step in the right direction.
“This event at Mahony’s is a real mark of the integration and collaboration between students, staff, and faculty here at UBC,” he said, “as we work together to create an initiative around mental health.”
By David Geselbracht on November 15, 2013
It’s a crisp Tuesday morning and the roads are wet after a night of heavy rain. Orange and yellow leaves cover 8th Street and a light fog is just beginning to lift. I’m waiting for Colin Hearne to arrive on his bike, before we cycle together from Kitsilano to UBC.
It’s Bike to Work week in Vancouver and Colin, who works in Health, Wellbeing, and Benefits, has registered to ride for the HR department at UBC. The event happens twice a year to promote exercise and healthy lifestyle choices among Vancouverites.
Despite the morning chill Colin is wearing shorts. Born and raised in Ireland he doesn’t bat an eye when rain clouds are forming overhead.
“Rather than avoiding getting wet,” he tells me, “just get wet, and shower up afterwards.”
We start biking down 8th Street and there are other cyclists humming along side us, on their way to work or school, or just on a morning cruise; some are on road bikes and others are on comfy cruisers.
The morning bike route to UBC is a scenic one. The roads are flanked with tall leafy trees of autumn hues, and the air is fresh and crisp. When we hit the big hill the Burrard Inlet comes into view, the ocean sitting calm and flat at the base of the Coast Mountains. It’s hard to believe a day can start like this.
A stepping stone
Each year – twice a year – Bike to Work week creates a buzz around cycling. “It invites those who don’t normally cycle to give it a try,” said Susanna Mulligan, another member of the HR team, who herself is an avid biker.
To participate one only has to form a team and register. It’s a great way build workplace community and get some exercise in.
“I did it back in May and really enjoyed it, and before that I didn’t cycle much to work, said Colin, “It’s a great stepping stone to encourage people to start cycling.”
Biking is just a good way to stay fit, too.
“It’s a good way to burn calories and keep the muscles toned, said Colin, “and it’s low impact.”
And studies suggest as much. We don’t need to be training for a marathon to be healthy; we just need to be doing some form of exercise, whether it be walking, biking, or even gardening for at least thirty minutes a day.
For Susanna, biking to work offers exercise when it can be difficult to find the time otherwise. But more importantly, she just enjoys it: “When I ride my bike I’m a happier person, it’s a very simple thing for me,” she said.
Biking in Vancouver
I asked Susanna about the rain, a looming question in the minds of those considering biking. “It’s all in the clothing,” she said, “rain pants, rain jacket – you can be just as dry as in normal weather.” Her philosophy is different from Colin’s, but both have an equally sunny outlook on the topic.
Colin and I reach the top of the hill and it’s smooth sailing from here. It’s cold enough outside that I can see my breath in the air but I’m anything but chilly. I’m wide awake, and in the time it takes us to climb the hill, the sun has risen a little bit more, trying to pierce through the rapidly disappearing mist. I carry the sights and sounds of the morning with me through the day, lifting me up, and I’m eager to bike – or glide, really – back down 8th Avenue when the day is over
This year UBC won Best Workplace (1000+ employees) and Best in “Higher Education” by number of trips, cycling over 13,000 km during the week. And in total, 220,000 kilometers were cycled by 3300 participants in Vancouver.
Get your wheels ready for Bike to Work Week next year starting May 26th!
By David Geselbracht on October 18, 2013
Did you know that UBC employs more alumni than any other organization?
In fact, 36% of all staff and faculty are UBC alumni.
Letting UBC students know that working at UBC is a possibility, and that thousands of people are already doing it, are messages that, as an employer, UBC wanted to share at the 2013 Career Days fair held in the SUB earlier this month.
At Career Days I was able to chat some UBC staff who are also UBC alumni, and learn a little bit more about their experiences working at their alma mater.
Andrea Lovely, who graduated in 2009 with a major in sociology and a minor in psychology, now works as Human Resources Coordinator with Community Services.
She first worked for UBC as a student with Conferences and Accommodation, and later, from contacts made through a mentoring program at UBC, learned of employment opportunities with Human Resources.
She loves her work there because she always feels supported, especially from her colleagues who have “a lot of knowledge” and who “work hard to keep you once you start.”
The sense of community at UBC is also a big draw. Last year she ran the Fall Classic 10km run around UBC with her department, and also played in a soccer league with some colleagues.
“UBC is kind of a hub for a lot of things in my life,” she said.
This year Andrea is planning to volunteer – as a mentor this time – for the same mentoring program she participated in at the start of her UBC career.
Another UBC alum, Winnie Kam, graduated in 2008 with a major in psychology and a minor in economics and now works for Human Resources. Before working in HR she worked in Accounts Receivable, where she gained experience and was able to take accounting classes on the side to improve her skills. Her job in HR now allows her to connect with many different people, an important aspect for her.
“It was always my intention to work with people,” she explained.
Lately Winnie has been practicing a lot of Zumba and is currently working towards an instructor’s certification. It’s a “Reggae tone dance mixed with some cardio, but basically, it’s just a lot of fun,” she described.
Many of the Zumba classes she takes are open to employees through Health, Wellbeing and Benefits.
And finally, I chatted with Kathryn Moore, an HR Coordinator with the Development and Alumni Engagement portfolio. She graduated in 2009 from the Sauder School of Business and worked for a few years at Ernst and Young downtown before coming back to UBC to work in HR.
“I fell in love with the team here,” she explains, “It’s an amazing group of people.”
Kathryn also lives close by and enjoys biking to work, and during lunchtime practices yoga at a staff recreation program.
Andrea, Winnie and Kathryn were just a few of the many UBC staff and alumni volunteering at Career Days, who came out to show students there are job opportunities at UBC after graduation, and that it’s a great place to work as well.
In fact, in 2013, UBC was recognized as one of Canada’s Top Employers for Young People.
Are you a UBC alum who works at the university and would you like to share your story? Please connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!