SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

December 07, 2015 14:00 ET

University of Calgary launches campus mental health strategy

Comprehensive initiative to benefit students, faculty and staff

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - December 07, 2015) - The University of Calgary unveiled an expansive new campus mental health strategy today. Aimed at supporting the mental health and well-being of all students, faculty and staff, the strategy strengthens the university's commitment to building "a community of caring."

"The University of Calgary includes a diverse community of individuals who come together to learn, work and flourish," says Elizabeth Cannon, president and vice-chancellor. "Through this new campus mental health strategy, we aim to become a leader locally and across Canada in promoting a healthy campus community."

A mental health task force, including a steering committee and multi-stakeholder working group, was created in 2014. Representatives from across the university included mental health experts and practitioners as well as students, senior leadership, professors, executive, and community members. The task force consulted broadly with individuals and groups, both internal and external to campus. The strategy was approved by the General Faculties Council and Board of Governors in October.

"This strategy addresses the holistic needs of our entire campus community," says Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president (academic), the driving force behind the strategy's creation. "This strategy recognizes the importance of support, collaboration and work-life balance for optimizing mental health and well-being."

Marshall added, "When you consider that the University of Calgary community includes more than 32,000 students and 6,500 faculty and staff, we have an opportunity -- and a responsibility -- to do all that we can to enhance the well-being of a significant segment of Calgary's population."

Mental health issues have been growing across Canada. The need for the strategy at the University of Calgary became increasingly apparent when the results of a 2013 campus-wide student survey were released. It was discovered that 90 per cent of students who responded to the survey had felt overwhelmed, 64 per cent felt lonely, 58 per cent had felt overpowering anxiety and eight per cent reported they seriously considered suicide at some point during the previous 12 months. It was further revealed that 18 per cent of students reported having been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition.

For faculty and staff, the top reasons for accessing counselling include stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms. In fact, mental health is the number-one reason University of Calgary employees access the Employee and Family Assistance program.

The campus mental health strategy is purposely aspirational, with an intention of building a "community of caring" where talking about mental health and well-being is encouraged, stigma around mental illness is reduced, support is assured and community members can realize their full potential, individually and collectively.

The task force used an approach based on the World Health Organization's Healthy for All strategy that comprises six strategic focus areas:

  • Raising awareness and promoting well-being
  • Developing resilience and self-management
  • Enhancing early identification and self-management
  • Providing direct service and support
  • Aligning institutional policies, processes and procedures
  • Creating and sustaining a supportive campus environment

The strategy includes 28 recommendations -- identifying areas for improvement and consideration. Recommendations under each strategic focus area fall into three broad categories: those programs and initiatives that currently exist that should be expanded, those that should be enhanced, and areas where new initiatives and programs should be developed.

Implementation of the strategy will start in early 2016 and continue over the next several years.

The vision of the campus mental health strategy will not be accomplished without the support of and collaboration with our community partners in government, community organizations, families and individuals who all play a role in creating a place where everyone can flourish.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is making tremendous progress on its journey to become one of Canada's top five research universities, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.'

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