This time last year, I was standing with an umbrella in the pouring rain in an empty parking lot at our Governor-ordered shut down college. It felt apocalyptic. Like the world was ending. I also had virtually no sleep and had spent nearly every waking hour for two weeks working on an academic continuity plan to ensure our students would be successful despite a sudden shift to remote learning in a global pandemic. Just in case a shut down happened. I’m grateful for that work because we were prepared, much more prepared than others. And that’s why on this day last year, I was dealing web cams, doc cams, and headsets to faculty from the trunk of my car.
This morning I read an article in the P&C about the mental health impact of COVID-19. Faculty at Upstate colleges were interviewed during their reporting. One faculty member recounted losing a colleague to suicide in the midst of this crisis. Of her experience, she said, “While students were given resources to help them cope, the faculty weren’t and instead were worked to death.”
Worked to death. Well, that resonates.
Earlier today, I also shared the following with colleagues in leadership: “I also think we need to be cognizant of the fact that we have overworked (“worked to death,” as noted in this article I read this morning) our faculty in this time of chaos and crisis. They’ve done amazing work. I’ve had the opportunity to observe first-hand some of the ways they’ve really pulled through for our students in trying times. I’ve also witnessed them working at all hours of the night, on weekends, and without time off to be that amazing. And I’ve witnessed and experienced first-hand the dangers of burning the candle at both ends relentlessly. “
As #highered leaders, we MUST model self-care. We MUST prioritize mental health. We MUST actively support the mental health needs of faculty and staff (while the article and my above conversation were specifically about faculty, all of our staff are in the same metaphorical drowning boat). Passively offering resources is NOT enough. Not. Enough.
As I said when I first ran for City Council and someone asked a question about how we would help heal the divide in our city, “it starts with us, the leaders. We have to show how it’s done.” Different group of people. Different situation. Still true: it starts with leaders who model the desired behavior.
I did a terrible job during that first year of COVID. I was in survival mode. I didn’t prioritize my own self care. I modeled working yourself to death. And so I almost died.
Now that I’m much better, I also know I need to DO better.
So I’m trying. Sometimes it’s just small things.
Some I’m trying: Wellness Wednesday. No emails from leaders after 7 PM or on weekends. Stress and relaxation activities like Pamela lead yesterday and for our department in December. Laughing a lot in our meetings.
It was chaos last year. Now, as we enter recovery, we really have to 1) recognize we “worked people to death;” 2) do better (this cannot be our new norm).
We = me. And I’m telling you this because I feel strongly about it. And also to help hold myself accountable. #Healing2021 isn’t just about me. It’s all of us.
P&C article referenced: https://t.co/dM4ftDdjYJ