Mount Royal University

Mount Royal University
Canadian Institute of Natural and Integrative Medicine

Canadian Institute of Natural and Integrative Medicine

November 12, 2013 14:32 ET

Revolutionary Online Program Helps Students Manage Stress for Life

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwired - Nov. 12, 2013) - Mount Royal University (MRU), in partnership with the Canadian Institute of Natural and Integrative Medicine (CINIM), launched a unique, online workshop today, designed to give MRU students the tools to manage stress and anxiety, and to bounce back from setbacks. BreathingRoom™ is a first in Canada and one of the few such e-health resources in the world. As a prevention tool it holds great potential for reducing the personal and financial costs associated with mental health issues.

A growing number of post-secondary students identify stress, sleep difficulties, and anxiety as the top three health issues impacting their academic performance. MRU's answer to those sleepless nights has been the result of four years of research and collaboration with CINIM and its founder, renowned Calgary psychiatrists Dr. Badri Rickhi, and Board Chair Dr. John Toews. The program was developed with help from MRU researcher Dawne Clark, now the director of the university's Centre for Child Well-Being. Since 2008, Clark has test-piloted early versions of the program on her students.

Today's launch will see CINIM provide MRU students complimentary access to BreathingRoom™ for the rest of this academic year, thanks to the support of community partners. The initiative is an outcome of MRU's President Task Force on Student Mental Health, which committed to the mental wellbeing of all students.

"Universities ask young people to make tough decisions all the time, and to handle a lot of pressure. Sometimes that pressure can feel overwhelming," says University President David Docherty, PhD. "BreathingRoom™ is available 24-hours, 7-days a week. It is an effective resource that supports the mental wellbeing and ultimate success of our students. This is the age for them to learn better ways of managing stress, how to navigate uncertainty and to lay the foundation to live a well and healthy life."

Docherty said today's launch also demonstrates that students can talk about their mental health challenges in a forum devoid of stigma and full of compassion. Finding room to breathe - to build a sense of resilience and cope with the challenges that face students - has been a focus for MRU since 2012 with the inception of the President's Task Force on Student Mental Health.

BreathingRoom™ speaks directly to people between the ages of 13 and 24 through music, video, comedy clips, suggestions from mental health experts, and personal stories from other young people. The developers took their more than 80-years of combined clinical experience and created simple, online modules that are engaging and easily applicable. It's an evidence-based interactive resource that offers practical strategies for managing life's challenges, and whose foundational principles are supported by an extensive body of literature.

Participants who completed the program reported experiencing a greater sense of control over their emotions and resulting behaviours six months later. They also felt a greater sense of connection to others, their surroundings, and themselves-a key element in their ability to cope with life challenges. Participants described higher energy levels, increased motivation, reduced negative feelings (guilt, anger, frustration), and reduced anxiety. The most significant feeling they moved toward was hope.

MRU student Samantha McDowell became a study participant in 2011 after already having tried medication and counseling to manage her mental health. The third-year nursing student saw it as a chance to learn more about herself, while doing the exercises at her own pace.

"BreathingRoom™ taught me that it's OK to have bad days," says McDowell. "Some days are still a struggle but the program gave me the tools to love life again and all the things I am passionate about, especially school," said McDowell. "The biggest outcome for me was that I learned how to forgive others without resolution. I also learned to forgive myself and that I don't have to be perfect."

While designed for young people, the core principles and activities have been found to be applicable to all age groups. CINIM's goal is to make its programs more widely available in 2014 through partnerships with other organizations and sponsors, and to develop programs focused on such issues as bullying and addiction.

CINIM is a community-based registered charity established in 2002 to develop and deliver programs through donations and corporate sponsorships. CINIM's purpose is to address the severe shortage of robust (safe, evidence-based, effective, proactive, lasting impact), accessible, relatable and affordable mental health resources by developing and delivering innovative programs that empower people with practical strategies to manage life's challenges. CINIM's programs are developed, evaluated, and implemented with collaboration from community stakeholders. CINIM has an extensive network of local and national partners in the academic, medical, research, education and integrative medical communities.

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