Mohawk College

Wellness and Why Getting Back to In-Person in Healthy Shared Spaces, Matters

Photo of Bill HogarthToday we take a deep dive into wellness with someone who spent 45 years in and around this subject area. Bill Hogarth is the former School Director of York Region District School Board. He’s the former Chair of Seneca College. He’s on the current Board of Governors for Guelph University and the Center for Addiction and Mental Health CAMH. He’s President of Education, Research, Development and Innovation. And he’s part of the TCI, Climate Change Leaders, Cleaner Air for Schools team, trying to make our built environment safe, and get people back to school. And back to work.


Gillian, Susan, Liz Beatty, Eddie, Edward, Elliott, Bill Hogarth

Climate Change Leaders

Liz Beatty 00:00

For everyone, there are so many ways this pandemic has impacted our lives, our sense of well-being of who we are, for example, seniors like Susan,

Susan 00:12

whoa, I’ve been better. I used to enjoy going to the mall with my friend rose. And I used to like Kevin, my, all my kids take insurance come in for supper and bring in the grandkids. Well, I went to church every morning, I don’t go every morning now. They don’t feel good. But I don’t feel safe going to groups of people don’t see.

Liz Beatty 00:40

And Edward.

Child online learningEdward 00:43

It’s like this. Our freedom is sort of shut down because of the COVID. And because of the lockdowns and because the numbers that we’re playing every day, and because of the new, various, even though we get the booster shot, and everything else is still rampant, and we’re so scared of it, because we don’t want to get it at our age. And we are very vulnerable. And we feel that way to enter. We voted with a choir men’s course. And we used to love getting together every Monday night and going to different places for putting on performances and asked them since last year, two years for sure. Hard to cope with that get shut down after a while it really

Elliott 01:31

are these two young students. My name is Henry, I’m in grade four. And the thing that I don’t really like about this pandemic is not being able to see my friends and having family gatherings and having to do online school. My name is Ellie, and I’m in grade three. What I don’t like about online learning is I don’t get to see my friends. And I like in person learning because you actually get to do your work. On paper, I like doing my work on paper, not on the computer.

Liz Beatty 02:05

And of course, teachers like Jillian

Gillian 02:07

and I am a special education teacher. And the thing I would say I find hardest about the pandemic would be at work struggling with the disconnect students now have with each other, they’re very device dependent. And even if you’re sitting in a classroom with 25 kids, they’re all staring at their 25 phones. And then online, it’s just like speaking and working with a blank screen. Personally, I think I have found the pandemic most challenging in maintaining a routine and a schedule and feeling each day to be different rather than Groundhog Day for two years.

Liz Beatty 02:52

And Edie who’s a Phys ed teacher,

Eddie 02:54

the most challenging part of the pandemic for me has been constantly trying to change and reinvent how you teach with every twist in every turn. And the expectation still being that the quality of education you deliver is to be the same. On a personal level, I’ve found it most challenging because the best part of this job is connecting with kids and being able to spend time with them. And even when we are in person, you’re so vigilant and trying to be so careful to keep your classes safe, that you don’t always enjoy the moments that you get in there as much as you could.

mental health letters

Liz Beatty 03:38

Beautifully, horribly. It is a remarkable thing that everyone on the planet has passed through this same vortex called COVID. At pretty much the same time. It makes one wonder how has this shared experience this shared trauma changed us. The folks at Thomas coal Inc at cleaner air for schools at climate change leaders are pretty passionate about the technologies they found that combat this virus. Things like duct sealing that with some pretty simple retrofits can increase ventilation up to 35% or

Remi led that actively removes from inside air and services up to 99% of bacteria and viruses like COVID. And a huge part of that passion is the pursuit of wellness of people and our planet. What can we do to get our people back into healthy, safe shared spaces, to connect, to learn to collaborate and to just have fun? Today, we find out just how important all this is. I’m Liz Beatty. This is the new healthy building podcast. You know the drill we share stories about trends forming communities and saving the planet one building at a time. Today we take a deep dive into wellness with someone who spent 45 years in and around this subject area. Bill Hogarth is the former school director of York Region District School Board. He’s the former chair of Seneca College, he’s on the current Board of Governors for Guelph University, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health CAMH. He’s president of education, research, development and innovation. And he’s part of the TCI cleaner air for schools’ team, trying to make our built environment safe, and get people back to school. And back to work. Welcome, Bill.

Bill Hogarth 05:47

Hi, Liz. It’s a pleasure. It really is a pleasure to be here with you.

Liz Beatty 05:51

Bill, let’s start with this big sweeping question. How has the pandemic interrupted some of the most basic things of being human have our sense of ourselves as social creatures?

Bill Hogarth 06:05

Well, it’s interesting, you know, our lives are habitual. And by that, I mean, it helps us to work to play to pursue goals. There’s, there’s sort of a rhythm to life. And this pandemic has been a life changing disrupter, instead of those personal interaction through meeting in groups through community, we’re now meeting virtually, meeting virtually personally, we’re meeting virtually professionally, we’re just meeting virtually. And it really has caused a tremendous, tremendous stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness. I mean, the list goes on. Beyond the personal, I think that our institutions have been tremendously impacted as well. And just let me list a couple. Politics, the politics now ideology is out the window. And the politicians have had to change course, just had it happen in our province, all of a sudden, we have sick days, the present government did not want to give those they ended up having to do it. Or economics, I mean, only there’s such a thing now as a as a deficit or a debt. Our total way of looking at the economic landscape has changed. Religion, I was I was delivering some masks to a mosque the other day. And I said, Well, this should help with your congregation. And the mom looked at me and said, but we only have 10 people in our congregation. Now. Science is really interesting, this come to the fore. And but people are doubting it. And if we’d listened to our scientists, that would have made a tremendous difference. The arts have been decimated. And that’s the way we relate, communicate, share our emotions. And of course, technology has risen to the fore, and we will continue to do so. So, I think inside those ways that we organize ourselves, the way we create them and take a look at how we can effectively operate as a community. All those things, again, have been dramatically, dramatically changed and shifted.

Liz Beatty 08:38

There seems to be growing concern for the long-term impact on our wellness and mental health. But let’s first talk about the difference between those two, wellness and mental health.

heart cutoutBill Hogarth 08:52

Wellness to me, and people have batted this, this this definition and what it means back and forth for a long time to find a get a handle on what it means but I really think it’s multi-dimensional. I think it’s subjective. I think it’s personal. I think it’s the pursuit of activities and choices and life skills. But we can break it down probably into the physical which is which is obvious. And we often describe wellness as being physical because it takes a look at a healthy body and exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc. But there’s more to it. There’s the emotional side. There’s the spiritual side, there’s the social side, the environmental side. Okay,

Liz Beatty 09:40

let’s expand on that. Initially

Bill Hogarth 09:43

when we talked about wellness and what was out there in the landscape, we thought of wellness as mental and mental health. I think that yes is part of wellness but I put it in a separate area or category because the whole mental side is the way we engage with the world, the way we learn the way we problem solve the way we think critically, the way we create, we understand that the brain is a very, very complex organ. And when we talk about areas like learning and problem solving and creativity, the brain, our brains react differently through each individual. So, the complexity on the mental side of wellness, I don’t want to separate it out as a different category. But I would define it as something that really, we’re just trying to understand how we how we look at the area of mental health and how we take a look at the mental side of our wellness.

Liz Beatty 10:53

Now, let’s talk about the most vulnerable among us in all this.

Bill Hogarth 10:57

I think. I think this is a socio-economic issue. To start with. I think this is a racialized issue. To start with, I think that it’s identifying the vulnerable parts of our society. So yes, we’ve identified the elderly within the die. identified in the indigenous community, we take a look at our young people. I think that again, when we take a look at the whole area of who’s vulnerable at a time like this, this pandemic has brought out so many inequities that we probably have not dealt with, even up until this year. And it’s revealing itself. So, I think it’s a real, dark, dark mark in our society.

Liz Beatty 11:59

Now, while suicide rates may not have skyrocketed during the pandemic, that isn’t really reflective of the vast number of us experiencing mental health issues during COVID.

Bill Hogarth 12:12

Here’s what we do know that across our, our country, 20% of our population, one in five, suffer from some sort of mental stress disorder. And that has been fairly constant. If you take a look at the whole area of stress, and here’s some numbers during this pandemic 33% of our populations say that this is stressful. It’s interesting, though, that the people 18 that are group 18 to 34, it’s 42%, anxiety 30 to 40%, depression 24, to 31%, loneliness 24 to 51%. So, you can see that when we’re talking about how our

population is impacted by mental health, you can see the numbers going up somewhat. You’re in this pandemic, but the number of 20 22% is experiencing some difficulty in that range of mental health is pretty constant.

Liz Beatty 13:32

So maybe COVID has just shone a light on wellness and mental health issues and on the need for some more innovative solutions.

person on computerBill Hogarth 13:42

True. That is That is true. I think that the percentage that we just I just shared with you. Those would include people who were vulnerable before this pandemic. So, the pandemic has, again exacerbated some of the issues related to mental health. But they were there before as well. People were depressed before. Are they more depressed now? Yes, somewhat. So, I don’t want people listening to think that this is something just because of the pandemic, because it’s not. And again, how people receive help. There’s really what has emerged. And this is, I guess, one of the pluses of pandemic people are reaching out online. We are finding ways to reach people online. Does everybody have access to computers? No. Is there a health equity issue? Yes. But I think that we’re doing a better job, either through telehealth or through online assistance reaching out to the populace Our population who needs some support and some assistance. So, there are some signs that we are at least reaching out. And at least there’s some positive signs that we’re making a difference.

Liz Beatty 15:13

Now, is there a lasting silver lining in some of our pandemic innovations in the sense of reaching out to people in need?

Bill Hogarth 15:22

Sure. So, as we look at vaccination, as we take a look at how we can get back to some sense of normal, I think that you’re going to see, certainly more people being helped certainly people feeling that there’s support within their help group. And again, I think that we have to as a, as a society, as a country, take a look and realize just what this pandemic has done, and how we have to take a look at how we can reach people differently, and how we can allow people to break down some of those areas that we talked about around depression, loneliness, stress, etc.

Liz Beatty 16:07

What might be some of the other lasting pivots or see changes per se, in how we look at wellness and mental health, even beyond this pandemic? For sure.

Bill Hogarth 16:18

I want to I want to talk about mental health is health in two ways. First of all, if you break an arm, and fall, you know where to go, you know what to do, you get treated, your arm is put in a cast, or your arm is treated, and there’s healing. If I have a situation where I’m depressed, or someone is depressed, do they get the same assistance from a health standard standpoint? As you would get if you broke your arm? And the answer is unequivocally No. Both in terms of assistance, immediately, you get your arm treated immediately. If I’m depressed, I probably have to wait to get some assistance. First of all,

secondly, there is financial support for you because you broke your arm, from our medical care system, there is not the same support if someone is depressed, get that assistance from our medical care process. So that’s the first part. The second part is with doing tremendous work in the area of research in this city at CAMH. But we are connected across the world in terms of our research and the difference that we’re making, in terms of genetic testing in terms of looking at and identifying genes linked to introduce an intellectual disability take how we’re dealing and looking at autism, schizophrenia, et cetera. And, and the, the research is absolutely exceptional. And we’ve made tremendous breakthroughs. So, as we make the breakthroughs and as we can make that difference, and as we find a way to make sure that mental health is health, and that the research and the gains that we’ve made, a not only gets funded, but gets and is allowed to work his way through our health care system. So, it has the same, the same support that the broken arm has.

Liz Beatty 19:03

We heard off the top of the show from a couple of young students and dedicated teachers. Tell me what you think about the link between wellness and the adaptations we’ve been forced to adopt over the pandemic?

online learnBill Hogarth 19:17

I When you started out. Liz, you talked about learning. And I think it’s important that we stress and talk about on-line learning, because it’s important to put it within the context of learning and pedagogy. And I say that because during this pandemic, some teachers have been forced from a pedagogical sense to deliver online without the proper training because to present online demands a certain style and way of delivering. So, the stress on the teachers, some teachers, a lot of teachers has been immense, not just in terms of, and teachers are, by nature, positive, by nature, want to make sure that students are learning by nature feel guilty, if they don’t,

Liz Beatty 20:29

we certainly heard that in the opening. But we’ll how we learn moving forward adopt some of those pandemic changes, even over the long term, too, for sure.

Bill Hogarth 20:42

And a lot of teachers now feel guilty because they feel that students are not receiving, quote, the learning that they should be learning, and the way they should be learning. So that’s the first stressor. The second stressor is on the students. Some students are, I would say that, by the way, the numbers 25%, are really enjoying online learning. I see it in our neighborhood with university students, I see it and talk with students, I see it in talk with my son in law’s a teacher, I hear it 25%. So, if, in fact, we have teachers who are trying to pedagogically do their best they can with online learning, we have students whose learning style may or may not be learning online. And then we have the government, who says, now you’re online. Now you’re in class, now you’re online. Now you may be in class. So, I want us to picture now, what that does to the student, to the teacher. And let’s go back to my key point around the learning, because the learning has been interrupted. The learning is stressful. So, your question is, is complex? Do I think that students should be learning some online? Yes, I do. Do I think that it is a way of learning? Yes, I do. Do I think that we have to present and help our teachers with that pedagogical practice? Yes, I do. But I don’t want us to think that, that digital learning is the way to go.

How we leveraged digital, listen to the words, how we leverage digital, how we engage our teachers for pedagogical practice, and how we bring forward and results in a goal where the student says, Wow, this is really this is really engaging, is right now we’re not engaging a lot of students. And engaging is the key to learning.

Liz Beatty 23:14

Are you optimistic about the years to come?

Bill Hogarth 23:17

this pandemic will be over. But I think it’s so critical that we learn the importance of what we have to do, to get back together and get back together as a community to get back together. So, we can relate with each other so that we can spend time with our family. So that we can do all the things that we talked about when we talked about wellness. And I think it will be really interesting, hopefully six months from now, to do a podcast to talk about how we’ve returned to that normalcy. The how we’ve taken a look at our world through a lens that’s refreshing, that’s different. That’s is embracing the change that has been more than positive has made a difference to our way of life. And I look to the fact that as humans, we are resilient. We know how to make a difference when we have to make a difference. And coming out the other end of this pandemic. We will all make a difference.

person smiling

Liz Beatty 24:35

Well said Dell, and I will put your idea in our editorial schedule, consider it done. Bill, thanks so much for taking time with me today for sharing your experience and wisdom. I’m very grateful.

Bill Hogarth 24:49

Thanks Liz. This has been an absolute pleasure to dialogue with you to interact to take a look at Have something that has been truly a disrupter in our lives. And to work this through with you has been a joy. Thank you.

Liz Beatty 25:14

Find resources on mental health and wellness from CAMH and elsewhere at cleaner air for You’ll find there to information on duct sealing and Remy led leading solutions and clean air and increased ventilation to keep our learning environments and all kinds of workplaces safe. I’m Liz Beatty. This has been the new healthy building podcast. Thanks for listening

Host & Executive Producer

Liz Beatty is an award-winning feature writer, broadcaster and podcaster. She’s won the 2020 Gold Lowell Thomas Award for Radio Broadcasting from the Society of American Travel Writers. And North Americana took both 2020 Gold and Silver Lowell Thomas Awards for Best Podcast.

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