Mental health awareness initiatives strive to improve campus members’ mental wellbeing by increasing knowledge and understanding of the determinants, nature, impact, prevention and management of mental health issues. Increased knowledge and understanding builds resilience and capacity to maintain wellbeing. For example, resilience factors such as awareness of signs of stress, knowledge of coping strategies and belief
in ability to cope have been found to be associated with decreased symptoms of depression in university students (Sawatsky et al., 2010). Increased mental health awareness also plays an important role in the de-stigmatization of mental health issues. Stigma, prejudice, and discrimination have a significant impact on mental health by impacting one’s sense of self- worth and commitment to self-care as well as making it more difficult to reach out for help.
In addition, a supportive campus environment requires that all community members recognize their responsibility to others as well as themselves. Raising mental health awareness helps encourage community members’ commitment to take action to promote student mental health at the campus level as well as to care for themselves and others.
Mental health awareness includes a wide range of topic areas including:
- The social determinants of health and their impact on campus members’ mental wellbeing, along with campus factors that affect student mental health and the nature of their impact (e.g. social sustainability and safety, as well as campus systems, structures, policies, practices, spaces, and learning environments).
- How mental health impacts academic performance.
- How to maintain mental health (build resilience, a balanced lifestyle, self-management/self-care).
- Early indications of difficulties as well as indicators of poor mental health.
- Help-seeking as a normal and legitimate strategy and when to seek professional help.
- What mental health supports and resources are available on campus, and how to access these, and what process students can expect when they access mental health services (i.e. first appointment to include initial assessment and referral to on or off campus resources depending on the student needs/goals. etc.)
- How to reach out to support someone you’re concerned about.
- Understanding the recovery process for persons with lived experience of mental health difficulties.
- The role of accommodation and the right to accommodation for students with mental health issues.
- Stigma, prejudice, and discrimination: what it looks like and how it impacts student mental well-being.
- The kinds of concrete actions that can be taken by various stakeholders across campus to foster members’ well-being.
- The benefits of peer programs and the ways in which they strengthen a systemic approach to student mental health.