A mandatory wellness course is soon to be introduced at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education. While making courses compulsory is often a controversial move, I have to throw my support behind spreading these kinds of classes to more programs at more universities.
Starting in 2018, undergraduates in education at the U of C will have to take a three-credit course focused on wellness. This class will cover physical, spiritual, social, emotional and intellectual forms of wellness, to name only a handful. The school is touting that this class will be the first mandatory wellness course in Canada.
In theory, the course sounds nothing but great. University can be a tough experience on a number of fronts and taking good care of yourself and those around you can sometimes take the backseat, so a class that emphasizes proper self-care would be highly beneficial.
Likewise, mental health crises on university campuses are no secret, and students across Canada are statistically a stressed and depressed lot that could stand to learn a thing or two about managing their wellness before entering the workforce.
All this is good, but the question we’re left with is whether or not this is something students want.
Mandatory is typically a hard word to swallow. When I think of mandatory courses, I think of the uproar that used to inevitably come up whenever the subject of a compulsory Indigenous studies class was brought up at the University of Saskatchewan.
While that issue was sorted out in November 2015 when the University Students’ Council voted to implement Indigenous content into all U of S programs, that decision ultimately represents a trend of opposition to being “forced” to take a class.
Students seem to be diametrically opposed to the idea of being forced into particular classes — and perhaps they have a right to be so. University is a huge financial drain, so no one wants to feel like they have to pay to take a class that they don’t want to or don’t think will ultimately help with their degree — or maybe they just hated gym in high school.
As valid as those criticisms are, my response to them would kind of have to be “tough stuff.” A 2016 survey by the Centre For Addiction and Mental Health found that 40 per cent of Canadian respondents in the workforce reported feelings of anxiety or depression that they had not sought help for.
It’s clear that these problems follow students into the workplace when left unaddressed, so I think a course on promoting healthier and better living is a great initiative towards addressing issues of student wellness.
This kind of class could also function without requiring anyone to single themselves out or take individual action. While the U of S obviously offers services and resources for maximizing your health in a number of areas through the Stay Healthy initiative, they don’t do much good if students don’t have the means, interest or will to engage with them.
Thus, a wellness course would allow students to receive an education in areas like well-being, personal interactions and relationships that they would not have otherwise received or might not have even known they needed.
It will be worth seeing how this course plays out at U of C, but more programs and universities should consider following their lead and adopting courses that focus on health and well-being. No one should be opposing any initiative that effectively combats issues surrounding student health and wellness, and I truly doubt anyone is going to mourn the loss of a first year elective course all that much.
Image: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor