Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC): New commission of University Coexistence of Mental Health will promote student well-being

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The commission is headed by the rectors of the University of Chile (UChile), Rosa Devés; from the Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences (UMCE), Elisa Araya; and the rector of the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC), Ignacio Sánchez. In addition, experts from thirteen universities will participate. This new advisory body will initially have the mission of preparing a diagnosis on the different realities of the CRUCH universities in this field.

With the return to attendance, the universities of the Council of Rectors and Rectors (CRUCH) have shown that students require more support in mental health and, in addition, that coexistence has deteriorated, in relation to what was observed before of the pandemic.

Concerned about this situation, in the July session of the CRUCH, the rectors adopted the agreement to create the University Mental Health Coexistence Commission, with the aim of addressing these issues in a systematic and long-term manner, at the same time to propose lines of action that favor the care of the students.

The commission is headed by the rectors of the University of Chile (UChile), Rosa Devés ; from the Metropolitan University of Educational Sciences (UMCE), Elisa Araya ; and the rector of the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC), Ignacio Sánchez . In addition, experts from thirteen universities will participate, who were proposed and confirmed by the CRUCH plenary session on August 25.

Regarding the reasons that prompted CRUCH to form the commission, Rector Devés maintains that “caring for the mental health of young people has become a global challenge, and it is also a responsibility for educational institutions.” She adds that “universities and our communities must act as protective factors and understand the risk factors at the individual, community and societal levels that can affect mental health.”

One of the most relevant aspects of the commission is that it is a collaborative body, in which representatives from various CRUCH universities participate.

For his part, Rector Sánchez argues that “we have a significant number of students who require mental health support, who have had crises, who have had very difficult situations in terms of their stability and personal safety and that causes harm to people. and also a very complex situation in the environment”.

For both, the consequences of the pandemic are evident. From the perspective of Devés, “the pandemic has exacerbated the problem and there is evidence that university students are presenting anxious and depressive symptoms in greater proportion, compared to the pre-pandemic period”, while Sánchez points out that “we have seen a deterioration in university coexistence as a result of the consequences of the pandemic, the misuse of social networks, aggression in terms of gender, sexual abuse, lack of respect for the dignity of people.

Collaborative work instance
One of the most relevant aspects of the commission is that it is a collaborative body, in which representatives from various CRUCH universities participate.

Devés says that “through the commission we will be able to share the experience of the different institutions, and through collaborative work we will achieve a greater understanding of the problem and, very importantly, we will be able to learn about the approaches of the different communities. The importance of this problem that causes pain and also affects learning and academic progress, sometimes with serious consequences, warrants joint work, putting all our institutional capacities at the service of the university system”.

Regarding the lines of work, in a first stage it is contemplated to make a diagnosis of the different realities of the CRUCH universities to, subsequently, evaluate which are the main issues that need to be addressed.

“The collection of information will allow us to propose measures to deal with mental health issues and associated disorders, through the creation of university policies on the matter, something that the Undersecretary of Higher Education is also considering,” explains Rector Deves.

Regarding the lines of work, in a first stage it is contemplated to make a diagnosis of the different realities of the CRUCH universities to, subsequently, evaluate which are the main issues that need to be addressed.

Sánchez specifies that “guidelines will probably be dictated to carry out education, prevention, approach to conflicts, avoid repetition of conflicts and have a proposal for dialogue and work within the communities themselves.”

Through this new commission “we are giving very positive signals in terms of worrying about the stability and well-being of our university community,” says Sánchez.

Commission members
The commission will be made up of a group of experts from 13 universities, linked to the student welfare areas and the academic vice-rectorships.

The universities will be represented by the following people: U. Católica del Norte, Mónica Guzmán, Dean of Humanities; Metropolitan Technological University, Sandra Gaete Mejías, Director of Student Affairs; U. de Los Andes, Pamela Ellis, Head of University Life Welfare Unit; Metropolitan University Educational Sciences, Marcelo Astorga, Academic; U. Alberto Hurtado, Rosa María Olave, Director of the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Program; U. de La Serena, Patricia Astroza, Director of Student Affairs; Catholic University of the Santísima Concepción, Paola Núñez, Director of Student Affairs; U. de O’Higgins, Irene Leniz, Director of Mental Health; PU Católica de Valparaíso, David Letelier, Director of Student Affairs; U. de Chile, Pamela Díaz, Director of Student Affairs; University of Magellan, Adriana Barrientos, Director of Student Affairs; Catholic University of Temuco, Bertha Escobar, Dean of the Faculty of Health; University of La Frontera, Manuel Ortiz, Academic.

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