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HomeMedia Centre › First national Standard of its kind aims to help Canada’s post-secondary institutions support positive mental health and well-being for students

First national Standard of its kind aims to help Canada’s post-secondary institutions support positive mental health and well-being for students

From Mental Health Commission of Canada

A new national standard championed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to guide policies, procedures, and practices that promote positive student mental health and well-being has been developed for use by post-secondary institutions, starting today.

The National Standard of Canada for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students is the first framework of its kind in the world. It is designed to enhance and expand strategies already put in place by Canada’s universities, colleges, institutes, CEGEPs, and polytechnics as they work to foster positive mental health for students.

“We recognize that the majority of mental illnesses are first diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 24, when many are in or just out of post-secondary education,” said Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the MHCC. “Students may be experiencing even higher levels of stress and anxiety as the pandemic unfolds. There is a clear and pressing need. This new national Standard will help post-secondary institutions address this critical societal issue for our young people.”

The Standard, which is being released during Mental Illness Awareness Week, is a voluntary set of guidelines created and published by CSA Group, a global leader in standards development, with the support of the MHCC and its funding partners — Bell Let’s Talk, The Rossy Foundation, RBC Foundation, and Health Canada.

The evidence-based framework was developed over two years by CSA’s expert technical committee and was informed by extensive dialogues from across the country with students, administrators, service providers, health agencies, governments, and individuals with lived experience of mental illness.

The voluntary Standard supports five key outcomes:

  • greater awareness and reduced stigma around mental health
  • increased access to student supports, on and off campus
  • better life and resiliency skills that students can use at school, at work, and in their daily lives
  • healthier and safer institutional environments
  • improved opportunities for student success

“Supporting the mental health of Canada’s young people is a priority for Bell Let’s Talk,” said Mary Deacon, chair of Bell Let’s Talk. “We’re confident the National Standard of Canada for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students will advance the great work already under way by universities and colleges to provide healthy and safe environments that support student success.”

“It’s the first national set of guidelines to support good mental health practices on college and university campuses across Canada,” added Stephanie Rossy, vice-chair of The Rossy Foundation. “The Standard breaks new ground as institutions work toward the shared goal of better mental health and well-being for all of our students.”

“Our commitment to youth mental well-being is focused on prevention and early intervention programs that help provide young people timely access to knowledge, supports, and care — when and where they need it,” said Valerie Chort, vice-president of corporate citizenship at RBC. “Through our support of this new national standard, we are proud to be helping post-secondary institutions continue to develop these important resources and supports for students’ mental health.”

The Standard follows the success of the National Standard on Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, a framework developed by the MHCC and its partners in 2013 to provide a systemic approach to supporting positive mental health in the workplace.

The Standard is based on the firm belief that all of Canada’s post-secondary institutions can be change agents in mental health — an objective they are already working toward.

Of the more than 2 million people enrolled in Canadian post-secondary institutions, almost 70% are 24 or under, a demographic particularly susceptible to developing mental health issues.

More than 60 per cent of students felt “more than average” to “tremendous” stress, according to the 2019 National College Health Assessment. More than half felt so depressed they had a hard time functioning, and 16 per cent had seriously considered suicide. Three in four mental illnesses are first diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 24, when many people are in or just out of post-secondary education.

Read what people are saying:

“It’s wonderful to see all the initiatives and best practices that we have implemented at Carleton over the years be captured in The National Standard of Canada for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students. More than ever, mental health and wellness need to be at the core of University life. We would like to thank everyone involved in the development of this national standard as we all work together across the country to enhance the mental health and well-being of our students.”
– Suzanne Blanchard, vice-president (students and enrolment) at Carleton University

“Canada’s universities are dedicated to supporting the mental health and wellness of their students and are committed to working in partnership to tackle this complex and pervasive issue. We welcome this national Standard as a valuable new tool to help institutions and front-line staff continue their essential work to support student well-being.”
– Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada

“The mental health and well-being of students is of utmost importance to colleges and institutes. We welcome the national Standard as an additional tool to support the existing post-secondary practices and services that help students flourish and be successful.”
– Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada

“Adapting to post-secondary is challenging under usual circumstances. Creating new relationships, dealing with ongoing financial strain, and constantly being evaluated are a few of the difficulties students can face. The added dynamic of the COVID-19 learning environment adds another layer of stress and uncertainty for students across the country. Now more than ever, we need a cohesive movement to ensure the mental health and well-being of students are considered and supported at every level.”
– Daniel Major, post-secondary student at Mount Royal University and member of the Standard Technical Committee

To read the National Standard of Canada, CSA Z2003:20, for Mental health and well-being for post-secondary students, visit https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/studentstandard.

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The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change, an organization designed to recommend improvements to the mental health system on a national level. We are not directly involved in individual cases of advocacy, outreach, service delivery or local supports.