Description

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. 

Examples

  • Use of communication sources and channels that students find most credible and relevant (e.g. messages embedded in faculty communication to students; messages delivered via video blogging, social media, easy-to-navigate content on institutional website, etc.).

  • Mental health symposiums, forums and dialogues on mental well-being and mental health issues across campus to decrease stigma and fear while increasing openness to taking action.

  • Student-run, staff-supported mental health awareness clubs.

  • Faculty and staff training on the social determinants of health and their impact on student learning and mental health. 

Key Considerations

  • How do students, staff, and educators access in a timely way information that helps support mental health?  Is this information available in places and mediums most used by students, staff, and educators? Are there student groups or settings within which information should be delivered in another language or culturally different way?

  • What are the key messages your campus wishes to convey to the campus community?  Are there specific messages that would help increase faculty, staff and students’ desire and commitment to action to support student mental health?

  • What awareness building strategies are being implemented and how do you evaluate the effectiveness of initiatives? To what degree are messages regarding the impact of mental health on academic/career success and the importance of maintaining mental health embedded into established faculty communications to students (i.e. course syllabi, etc.)?

  • How are students, staff, and faculty engaged in the educational and awareness campaign processes? Are messages informed by students with lived experience of mental health concerns?

  • To what degree are student groups, student services and faculties aware of initiatives, programs and services provided by each other? Are mechanisms in place to increase awareness and enable coordination among campus mental health initiatives and events (e.g., to ensure that key messages are embedded in all such events)?

  • How are students, staff, and faculty encouraged to think and reflect critically on mental health messages in society?  Are campaigns and trainings free from language and examples that perpetuate stigma, prejudice, and discrimination? 

Key Resources