On January 29, just under 20 members of the Brock community took part in a community engagement meeting focused on the discussion around the following natural life events: death, grief, loss and caregiving. The meeting was about a new initiative that is underway called Compassionate Brock. The project is based off of Professor Allan Kellehear’s Compassionate City Charter, which outlines a public health approach to palliative care. The Compassionate City Charter is centered around creating communities which actively support their people during death, dying, loss and caregiving.
Two fourth year Public Health students at Brock, Aiman Ali and Isabelle Cruz, are heading the initiative. It is supervised by Pallium Canada and the Interprofessional Education for Quality Improvement Program (I-EQUIP), that is dedicated to providing experience for students through initiatives to improve health within different systems and environments.
The vision for the initiative is that staff and students alike will be comfortable talking about death and dying, and be able to effectively support one another through these processes. “As Brock is its own community where staff and students come every day, it’s important for all aspects of the university to be open to supporting each other through times of death and loss,” says Cruz. “Death is a part of the natural cycle of life and it affects everyone at some point in their life. After having conversations with both staff and students at Brock, it shows that both staff and students may feel lost when it comes to finding support, and may not feel comfortable talking about the topic with individuals around them.”
In December of last year, a focus group of individuals, including members of BUSU, HR, the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation, as well as Deans from both Applied Health Sciences and Social Sciences, met to discuss the current supports available at Brock for individuals who are going through personal journeys of caregiving or bereavement. One theme that came through was that although there are several resources available on campus for these situations, they are not well-known or easy to find.
With these insights, Ali and Cruz are hoping to “increase the awareness of already existing services and supports for staff and students, as well as destigmatize death.”
The community meeting held in January focused on community members’ thoughts and insights into the issues of death and loss and the support systems that are available. A discussion with those in attendance generated several ideas for ways that Brock could become a more educated and supportive community surrounding these issues, as well as ideas for events that could support individuals who are experiencing death, dying, loss and caregiving while on their journey at Brock.
“Through this initiative, we strive to make Brock a more compassionate community where everyone understands that it’s everyone’s responsibility to support those who are going through the death, dying, loss and caregiving experiences,” said Cruz. “We hope that social change will occur and that people will become less scared and uncomfortable talking about grief, care giving, or death, so more people can be supportive of each other.”
There was great interest generated from those who attended the December and January meetings. One of the first steps in creating a Compassionate Brock is to start planting the seed in the groups and departments who attended. This can help spread the word throughout all of Brock.
“Compassionate Communities isn’t just about making large-scale policy changes all at once, but it’s about everyone doing something small in their own circle of connections; whether it’s just talking to someone about the initiative, or asking the student council of a department on how they can better support its students. As the initiative grows, we hope that more organizations, departments, clubs, and administrative teams become more compassionate towards its members by supporting individuals in both big and small ways.”
The longterm goal is to see a change throughout the entire Brock community. Cruz states it simply: “Everyone in the Brock community can take part of this initiative and strive to be compassionate.”