This fall, seven Canadian universities and colleges will take part in a Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) led pilot project to teach students how to better understand and manage their mental health.
Initially developed at the University of Calgary and piloted at the universities of Calgary and Mount Royal, The Inquiring Mind pilot will expand to the campuses of the University of Lethbridge, MacEwan University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Dalhousie University, the Nova Scotia Community College and Dalhousie Medical School, which is planning to train all their first-year students.
“We know that the transition to post-secondary education can be a stressful one,” says Louise Bradley, MHCC President and CEO. “Young people need to be supported as they experience the independence and academic pressures that go hand-in-glove with this major life change.”
The Inquiring Mind is adapted from existing evidence-based programs, the Road-to-Mental-Readiness and The Working Mind and contains three main components: stigma reduction, building resiliency and the Mental Health Continuum Model.
“We talk about stigma and the barriers it creates on campuses. Students are supported in sharing their personal experiences and watch videos featuring peers living in recovery,” says Dr. Andrew Szeto, Director, Mental Health Strategy and Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology with the University of Calgary, who led the adaptation of the training. “We also discuss coping skills that will help students manage stress as well as give them a common vocabulary to relate their concerns.”
Specifically, the Mental Health Continuum Model categorizes mental health on a simple colour scale: green (healthy), yellow (reacting), orange (injured) and red (ill). “This allows for a discussion without formal labels,” explains Szeto. “And it stresses that a person can move from green to red, and back again.”
This summer, a mix of staff, student leaders and peer supporters—40 in all—will receive training on how to deliver The Inquiring Mind. “They will go back to campus and hold as many workshops as they can, to build the foundation for a supportive, mentally healthy campus environment,” says Szeto.
Tailored specifically to the undergraduate experience, The Inquiring Mind was informed and developed with the input of students like Clare Linnea Hickie. A sixth-year psychology student, Hickie was a member of the development committee and shared her experiences with depression and anxiety in a training video.
“For me personally, seeing other students who are passionate about mental health, or even who are open to learning and listening, has been incredibly impactful not only in my work as a mental health advocate, but in my own healing journey as well. Knowing there are others out there with shared experiences, and people on campus who care and want to make things better, has given me the courage to be outspoken about my own struggles with depression and to work to create change on my campus and in the community.”
“The University of Calgary is proud to have been involved from the beginning of The Inquiring Mind program, helping our students understand their own mental health and how they can support others. The program was developed with the input of our students, faculty and staff,” says Dru Marshall, Provost and Vice-President (Academic). “The Inquiring Mind helps us work toward our commitment of building a community of caring, where we talk to each other about our mental health in order to flourish.”
Dalhousie University is committed to providing students with an environment that supports a holistic approach to wellness, with an emphasis on mental wellbeing. This program is part of that dedication.
—Verity Turpin, Assistant vice-provost, Student Affairs
The Nova Scotia Community College is excited to research effective approaches to positively address mental health stigma and make it easier for those affected to reach out for help. This is a critical component of an inclusive and supportive learning environment and we are looking forward to sharing this program with our students.
—Elizabeth Yeo, Director, Student Services, Nova Scotia Community College
At Dalhousie Medical School we are very pleased to be one of the first Faculties of Medicine to bring The Inquiring Minds to our key learner support faculty and staff. Mental health is critical for physicians to remain able to care for others, and to sustain their efforts over a long career.
—Dr. Joanne MacDonald, Assistant Dean Student Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, Dalhousie University
“We are very pleased to begin providing The Inquiring Mind program to our students. This program will strongly contribute to the important, ongoing work of maintaining a healthy, supportive campus that enables students to flourish.”
—Dr. Mark Slomp, Executive Director, Student Services, University of Lethbridge
At Mount Royal University, we value and strive to have a healthy, inclusive and safe environment for everyone on campus. The Inquiring Mind program for students has been an excellent resource to reduce stigma, increase awareness and provide the necessary supports related to mental health.
—David Docherty, President, Mount Royal University
At Memorial University, we have a responsibility to promote student health and wellness through education, research, policies and practices on our campuses. The Inquiring Mind pilot program, as part of our partnership with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, will be an important element of our focus on student health and wellness.
—Dr. Cecilia Reynolds, Deputy Provost (Students) and Associate Vice-President (Academic) Undergraduate Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland
ABOUT THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION OF CANADA
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change. We are collaborating with hundreds of partners to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Our goal is to help people who live with mental health problems and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives. Together we create change. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.
www.mentalhealthcommission.ca | strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca
Hélène Côté, Senior Communications Advisor, Public Affairs
Mental Health Commission of Canada