A new resource including the latest on the pandemic has been created to help McMaster University faculty and staff members feel more prepared to address student mental health issues.

Professor Hippo-on-Campus is an initiative of the McMaster Student Mental Health and Well-being Strategy under the Office of the Provost.

The online program, which can be done anytime and anywhere, consists of eight modules, covering such topics as: creating mental health-positive learning environments, communicating with stressed and distressed learners, and recognizing and responding to students in distress and difficulty.

“We know that faculty and staff are often approached, or are the first to notice, when students are feeling stressed, distressed or are experiencing mental health difficulties because they are trusted mentors and advisors and frequently interact with students,” said Catharine Munn, developer and lead of the program and the McMaster Student Mental Health and Well-being Strategy. She is an associate clinical professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences.

“They have told us they want to be more prepared for these situations. This program teaches them how to recognize students in distress and difficulty and to respond, not as counsellors or therapists, but in ways consistent with their roles.”

Professor Hippo-on-Campus was developed by McMaster’s Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching in cooperation with a team of undergraduate and graduate students. It was created and first tested dating back to 2017 in the Learning Technologies Lab in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

All McMaster employees, including student employees like teaching assistants and resident assistants, are eligible to participate in the program. The team behind the initiative has also added a COVID-19 resources page with curated information, supports and services available during the pandemic.

“I am very pleased that we can offer this program to our faculty and staff, and support their commitment to helping our students succeed, especially in challenging times like this,” said McMaster President David Farrar.

“This program will help us meet the needs of students who are experiencing stress and distress in a more informed and coordinated way. It also encourages us to consider ways that we can continue to create more inclusive and mental health-positive learning environments at McMaster.”

For more information, visit the website for Professor Hippo-on-Campus or email profhipp@mcmaster.ca.