Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology creating a caring community, on campus and online

May 05, 2022
Thursday morning Coffee and Conversations in the BPK Lounge

When it comes to mental health and wellbeing, the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology cares.

As you walk through the hallways of Shrum K you’ll notice decorative anatomy decals and wayfinding signage, and the faces of numerous faculty, students and alumni smiling back at you from the walls. It all contributes to making the department a little friendlier, and more recognizably BPK.

For the past five years the BPK Mental Wellness and Engagement Committee (MWEC) has been working to improve wellness and a sense of community and belonging both within the department and beyond. Representing teaching and research faculty; undergraduate and graduate students; as well as staff, the committee meets regularly to plan and evaluate initiatives to address concerns about staff and student wellness and identify areas for improvement.

One of their first projects was a refresh of the BPK Student Lounge. MWEC worked with the BPK administration team and SFU Facilities to advocate for a functional design that would make the space more comfortable and inviting, and allow for many different uses, from independent and group study to social events.  New furniture, numerous electrical outlets and phone charging stations and a microwave make it a space where people can gather outside of class.

The success of the new space was a catalyst to improve other spaces around Shrum K. Faculty profiles posted outside of offices aim to humanize professors by sharing non-academic information about their lives outside of SFU, as well as advice to students that ranges from “learn from regrets, then forget about them,” and “figure out what you want to do and do it; don’t let perceived limitations constrain you,” to “protect your knees.”

Community members deliver holiday care packages to students

The committee has also worked to plan social and wellness events, including Thursday morning Coffee and Conversations in the BPK Lounge, distributing care packages at exam time, and supporting events hosted by the BPK Student Association.

When the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic began the committee members had to take a step back. “It was a difficult position to be in because we knew the importance of supporting mental health at that time, but we couldn’t support other people’s mental wellbeing without supporting our own,” says Diana Bedoya who co-chairs the committee with Anne-Kristina Arnold.

During the pandemic, they have offered online mental health workshops, and distributed mental health and wellness tips on their social media channels and website. This is something they plan to keep going into the future, even as they plan some in-person events for the fall.

“We are looking forward to bringing those back when it feels safe to do so,” Arnold says. “As a fitness-friendly department, we’d like to have more active events too, such as the skating one we hosted in early 2020. These events are all about promoting those social connections that are so vital for mental wellbeing.”