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Breaking down barriers to address student mental health needs

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Breaking down barriers to address student mental health needs

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At Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., a “Caring Campus Project” is working to reduce risks associated with poor mental health and substance misuse among first-year male students while also creating a more supportive campus environment.

In Oshawa, Durham College students are encouraged to download a HealthyMinds app, a problem-solving tool to help them deal with emotions and cope with the stresses they’ll encounter both on and off campus.

Both are among a growing number of examples of mental health initiatives undertaken by universities and colleges across the province and are also among the many initiatives shared on the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (CICMH) website (campusmentalhealth.ca).

‘Epidemic’ of students

As post-secondary institutions across the country and beyond cope with an “epidemic” of students seeking mental health services, sharing such initiatives is a huge step forward. “There are probably many reasons why students are seeking support and the first is that they’re suffering and struggling,” says Camille Quenneville, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario.

It’s playing a lead role in running the CICMH in partnership with Colleges Ontario, the Council of Ontario Universities, the College Student Alliance and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and is funded by the provincial government’s Mental Health Innovation Fund.

Until recently, post-secondary institutions have largely been working in isolation and haven’t been properly evaluating the success of the mental health services they offer, says Glenda MacQueen, vice dean of the Cumming School of Medicine at Alberta’s University of Calgary.

Sharing best practices

The CICHM and B.C.’s Healthy Minds/Healthy Campuses are breaking down those barriers. By sharing best practices, universities and colleges don’t need to constantly reinvent the wheel and can focus their resources on helping students.

Through a multi-disciplinary community of campus service providers, the CICMH will share best practices and improve mental health services for students while also enhancing support for frontline staff.

Read the full story in The Toronto Sun

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