Description

A supportive campus climate and environment supports student and employee engagement, which has been found to have a positive impact on both academic and service performance on mental health (e.g., Center for the Study of Collegiate Mental Health, 2010). By creating conditions for meaningful participation in the campus community including the fluid and authentic exchange of ideas, such an environment helps members feel connected and facilitates holistic, integrated learning and development. The capacity to adapt to change, to embrace challenges, and to maintain resilience are all outcomes of such development. Other outcomes include evolving clarification of interests, values, academic goals, and one’s sense of life purpose in relation to the world. Such an environment is fundamentally committed to social justice and sustainability and identifies, addresses and remedies barriers to full participation of all members. 

Examples

  • Warm, welcoming, and safe spaces for students to gather, socialize, and connect.  Information about and access to spiritual communities.

  • Mentorship and student life programs that encourage multiple ways for students to connect within the community.

  • Academic programs that integrate opportunities for meaningful engagement and learning both in and outside the classroom.

  • Resources for educators to ensure their curriculum does not perpetuate mental health (including substance-use related) stigma, prejudice, and discrimination.
  • Processes that recognize and mitigate barriers for students with mental health disabilities, such as informing students about their rights against prejudice and discrimination and choice of mental health resources and supports.

  • Developing and implementing universal design concepts for accessibility so there is less need for individual accommodations. 

  • Resources for students, staff and faculty to address systemic barriers to participation (i.e. offices with responsibility for addressing issues such as equity, discrimination and harassment).

  • A shift in culture that recognizes that the entire post-secondary community is responsible for the mental health of its members and that mental health affects learning. 

Key Considerations

  • To what degree do members perceive that the institution cares about their mental health? What actions convey this to students?

  • What is the impact of current campus learning, living and social space on student learning and well-being? To what degree do these spaces reinforce behaviors that promote or undermine learning and mental health? 

  • How does the physical and social design of campus (e.g. transportation, signage, pathways, lighting, buildings, social spaces and central gathering places) impact member safety and  interaction? How does it impact student access to resources and services (e.g. from learning and support to recreation and food)?

  • How does the geographic location as well as socio-, economic and political characteristics of the surrounding community impact student mental health? What programs and resources might be needed to address these impacts?

  • To what degree do the campus culture and environment support diversity, inclusion, and equity?  What values are conveyed by campus-wide and faculty/staff/student events, athletics, and residence life?

  • To what degree do faculty and staff composition, student residences as well as student organizations and groups reflect the diversity of the student population (gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, disability etc.)?

  • To what degree are students with disabilities fully able to participate in all aspects of student learning and living?

  • What values, rituals, and traditions exist in the campus community that are related to alcohol (or other drug) use, and how do these impact members’ mental health?

  • To what extent do educators consider the impact of their curriculum and pedagogy on student mental health? What are educators and academic units doing to create learning experiences and environments that foster well-being? In what ways can we engage educators to contribute to a supportive, inclusive community?

  • To what degree are student groups, campus departments and faculties aware of and coordinated with the initiatives, programs and services provided by each other to foster the development of a supportive campus community?

  • What opportunities exist for students to have a voice in the development and roll-out of strategies to create a more supportive, inclusive campus environment as well as programs that impact their mental health?

  • How does your institution consider the role of the student’s family and personal supports in maintaining student mental health?

Key Resources

  • Astin, A.W. (1993). What matters in college? Four critical years revisited. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Cox, D.H. & Strange, C.C. (2010). Achieving student success: Effective student services in Canadian higher education. McGill-Queen’s University Press.
  • Kuh, G.D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J.H. & Whitt, E.J. (2005). Assessing conditions to enhance educational effectiveness: The Inventory for Student Engagement and Success. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Mcdonald, W.M. (Ed.). Creating campus community: In search of Ernest Boyer’s legacy. San Francisco, CA: Jossy-Bass, 2002.
  • Pascarella, E.T. & Trenzini, D.P. (2005). How college affects students: A third decade of research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Strange, C.C. & Banning, J.H. (2001). Education by design: Creating campus learning environments that work. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Whitlock, J., Wyman, P. & Barreia, P. (2012). Connectedness and suicide prevention in college settings: Directions and implications for practice. http://selfinjury.bctr.cornell.edu/documents/connected.pdf.