Fostering students’ mental health and well-being is the goal of a new document recently approved by the University’s Board of Governors and Senate.
The Student Mental Health Framework will guide all decision-making in student mental health, said Brenda Whiteside, associate vice-president (student affairs).
“Like other universities in the province, we are increasingly concerned about student mental health issues,” Whiteside said.
U of G has long been known for its awareness and support programs, she added. Student demand for these services has increased dramatically in recent years.
“Post-secondary students are uniquely vulnerable to issues of mental health and wellness,” Whiteside said.
Mental health issues often first appear during university-age years, as students move away from home and encounter new expectations for academic success as well as personal and cultural pressures.
Taking an integrated, proactive approach to student mental health, the document focuses on proactive student support, including identifying students in difficulty and referring them for help, Whiteside said.
It recommends revisions to academic policies and procedures affecting student mental health.
The framework emphasizes awareness of the breadth of programs available, and ideas and support for initiatives. It was approved by Senate May 30 and B of G June 3.
“It’s important for everyone on campus to be able to express concern, provide support and, if appropriate, refer students to campus resources,” Whiteside said.
Irene Thompson, director of student housing and a B of G member, said students are often not aware they are experiencing mental health challenges. “Part of the strategy behind the framework is coaching other people in the ability to recognize changes in students.”
The framework was written by U of G’s Advisory Committee on Mental Health and Wellness. The committee was created in 2014 to evaluate Guelph’s mental health programming and priorities.
Prof. John Beaton, an instructor in the Couple and Family Therapy Program and chair of the advisory group, said the document is intended as a guide to best practices, policies and procedures. “It will also guide us in thinking about student mental health.”