New student mental health program to be piloted on seven Canadian campuses

Posted on September 11th, 2017

This fall, seven Canadian universities and colleges will take part in a Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) led pilot project to teach students how to better understand and manage their mental health. 

Initially developed at the University of Calgary and piloted at the universities of Calgary and Mount Royal, The Inquiring Mind pilot will expand to the campuses of the University of Lethbridge, MacEwan University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Dalhousie University, the Nova Scotia Community College and Dalhousie Medical School, which is planning to train all their first-year students.

“We know that the transition to post-secondary education can be a stressful one,” says Louise Bradley, MHCC President and CEO. “Young people need to be supported as they experience the independence and academic pressures that go hand-in-glove with this major life change.”

The Inquiring Mind is adapted from existing evidence-based programs, the Road-to-Mental-Readiness and The Working Mind and contains three main components: stigma reduction, building resiliency and the Mental Health Continuum Model.

“We talk about stigma and the barriers it creates on campuses. Students are supported in sharing their personal experiences and watch videos featuring peers living in recovery,” says Dr. Andrew Szeto, Director, Mental Health Strategy and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology with the University of Calgary, who led the adaptation of the training. “We also discuss coping skills that will help students manage stress as well as give them a common vocabulary to relate their concerns.”

Specifically, the Mental Health Continuum Model categorizes mental health on a simple colour scale: green (healthy), yellow (reacting), orange (injured) and red (ill).  “This allows for a discussion without formal labels,” explains Szeto. “And it stresses that a person can move from green to red, and back again.”

This summer, a mix of staff, student leaders and peer supporters—40 in all—will receive training on how to deliver The Inquiring Mind. “They will go back to campus and hold as many workshops as they can, to build the foundation for a supportive, mentally healthy campus environment,” says Szeto.

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