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Why Give | Impact stories

Santa J. Ono: wellness and music

President Santa J. Ono’s commitment to mental health comes from personal experience – from a time when he faced challenges.

UBC President Santa J. Ono would like to increase mental health literacy at UBC, by creating a campus culture that provides resources to engage meaningfully with these issues.

“Our university is not just a place; it is our people. Their success is UBC’s success,” says Ono. “By promoting their wellbeing, we promote their excellence.”

Under Ono’s leadership, UBC has built a long-term strategic plan with wellness at its core. The UBC Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy’s aim is to foster a supportive and inclusive environment that is grounded in all institutional policies and practices. Early identification of students requiring assistance and connection to appropriate and adequate resources is crucial.

“One important element to successful university and school mental health programs is peer support. No one knows the pressures that students face better than other students. Students are also more likely to trust the advice given by other students. That’s why UBC — and other universities — put resources into peer support.”

The UBC president’s commitment to mental health comes from personal experience — from a time when he faced challenges.

“There were moments that were very happy for me being at university with other students my age — and there were other days where I would just be in my bed alone, not having the energy or the will to get up.”

Improving coping skills is crucial to building mental health and to living, learning, and working well. Echoing donor June Goldsmith, Ono has found music, both listening and playing, are essential components of his mental wellbeing.

“What’s amazing is that nothing can change the mood of a person and unify a room of people, like music,” says Ono, “You become one with your instrument and sometimes, you feel like the music is coming from inside your brain or directly from your heart. After you play, you reach a place of calm — whatever worry you might have had, however bad your day might have been.”