Advocating for mental wellness among pharmacy students

Image: "Pugs and Drugs" pet therapy event.

This year, the Pharmacy Undergraduate Society (PhUS), has been actively advocating for mental wellness among pharmacy students. 

“There are a ton of great resources on campus, and we want our peers to know how to reach out for help and access these resources,” says Jamie Park, vice president, academics, PhUS.  

“Our goal this year is to normalize conversations around mental health and raise awareness about the importance of self and community-care. After all, we are a healthcare faculty, and it is difficult to take care of others when we have not been taking care of ourselves,” adds Giordano Bua, secretary, PhUS.

Jessica Jiang, second year PhUS general councillor explains, “Being a pharmacy student means meeting so many demands: academic, extracurricular, social and more while still making time for yourself. Taking care of yourself means striking a sense of personal balance.”

Below, the PhUS committee speak to why advocating for mental wellness among pharmacy students is important, and share current and upcoming events.

Why advocating for mental health is important

As members of PhUS, we are committed to representing students and achieving positive growth in the area of mental health. We believe it should not be talked about in an open, understanding environment and supported in many different ways through discussions, events and workshops. In this way, we are able to play an integral role in the health and wellbeing of students and help them succeed in their own ways. 

Student-led initiatives

PhUS Wall of Wellbeing 
The goal of this installation is to spread positivity amongst the student body. This is an installation in the PhUS student lounge where students can read and share words of encouragement and/or advice on the sticky notes provided. Afterwards, we gather and share the responses with the student body.

Health & Wellness Workshop Series
We collaborated with the UBC Health and Wellness Centre this year to establish a wellness workshop series. Each workshop was led by wellness peer educators and there were 10-15 students per workshop. The first was called “Live Well to Learn Well.” Students were able to apply proactive strategies to improve sleep, nutrition, exercise, social connections, and helping others. They also learned how to identify key on and off-campus resources that can support them in developing skills, and reaching their academic and life goals. 

The second workshop was offered specifically to student leaders: “Live Well to Lead Well.” Participants were able to relate the concept of wellness to more effective leadership and identify strategies to support the wellness of themselves and others. The third workshop focused on time management. This workshop included activities to examine students’ energy cycles and develop effective time management strategies. 

Monthly Community Care Events 
In October, we hosted a Halloween movie night in partnership with Lambda Kappa Sigma (LKS), an event titled “Fuel Your Brain” with UBC Rho Chi Society and a swimming night with LKS. At the Halloween movie night, students were able to gather with their friends and socialize while enjoying a spooky movie. Next, at Fuel Your Brain, free nutritious fruits were handed out in the Pharmaceutical Sciences building atrium to address students skipping lunch due to hectic schedules. Finally, at the swimming night, participants were able to get some exercise and burn off stress while socializing with others at the UBC Aquatic Centre. 

In November, we hosted a karaoke night (with the Vocal Ensemble), suicide prevention training (with the BC Pharmacy Association) and an event called “Pugs and Drugs.” The karaoke night was the first of its kind for our student body. Participants were able to destress and sing their hearts out with the Pharmacy Choir. Through the suicide prevention training, an internationally recognized suicide intervention program offered by the UBC Wellness Centre, students learned how to reach out and help someone at risk. And at Pugs and Drugs, both students and Faculty members enjoyed time with fluffy pals from the Little Paws Rescue Society. We were also able to raise over $300 dollars for the Society to cover veterinary costs for the dogs. 

There are also upcoming community-care collaborations with the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns (CAPSI), UBC Pharmacy Evidence Appraisal Club,  Kappa Psi, and the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists. 

Final thoughts from PhUS

For Riaaz Lalani, 4th year representative, deadlines are important but so is quality of life. “Go for a run, grab dinner with your friends – whatever helps you destress. The fact that you are dedicating years of your life to supporting the health and well-being of others means you shouldn’t forget to look after yourself,” he says.

“Life is full of challenges, problems, failures, and heartbreaks. But at the end of our journey, everything will be worth it, “ shares Jeremy Bulatao, 1st year representative. “Learn how to appreciate the little things that you almost always take for granted, watch that movie you've been wanting to see, dance to the beat of your favorite song.”

Elisa Colasurdo, PhUS president says, “It’s so important to take a break from studying every so often.  If you’re a pharmacy student and find yourself struggling, please reach out and talk about it – we’re all in this together.” 

Other Contacts

Jamie Park