PSYC 1400 Mental Health and Well-Being First Year Course – MHIF (Round 2)
This project aimed to develop a for-credit course for students at the University of Guelph with an identified mental health challenge. The course was developed in partnership with Student Life, Student Accessibility Services and the Department of Psychology. The course was offered in Fall 2014, Winter 2015 and is slated to be offered again in Winter 2016. The course is seminar-style and capped at 30 students per semester. A thorough research evaluation of the course was also conducted.
Corey Keyes’ Dual Continua Framework for Mental Health was used as an overarching paradigm for the course with a great emphasis on building mental health even while struggling with mental illness. There are three central aims of participating in PSYC*1400, including increased mental health/illness knowledge and understanding, increased academic self-efficacy in the context of mental health challenges, and awareness/practice at skills for improving wellbeing. Additionally, the course provides the opportunity to orient students to important supports available on campus, in the community and online. Evaluation is assignment and participation based with no final exam or midterm. Students also complete an individualized learning and wellness plan. Topics highlight various aspects of mental health and wellbeing including, for example: Understanding mental illnesses, Mental health advocacy, Planning for personal challenges, Self-management coping skills (CBT, mindfulness, relaxation, yoga, etc.), Becoming an informed mental health consumer, Better identifying and using personal strengths to increase well-being. The course is different from group therapy in a variety of ways, including the fact that it is evaluative, students earn a credit, there is a greater educational focus, different qualities and levels of exposure are expected in a classroom setting, great focus on mental health promotion and positive mental health.
All students in the course had received at least one mental health diagnosis upon enrollment. The program evaluation revealed that students evidenced decreased depression, anxiety and self-stigma as well as increased adaptive coping, positive schemas and general life satisfaction following participation in the course. A qualitative analysis of student comments revealed that they felt a greater sense of belonging and attributed the course for improving their academic self-efficacy.
“This course encouraged me to put my mental health as a priority throughout the semester by learning new coping strategies and tools. The pass/fail nature of the course helped me to focus on my mental health without increasing my anxiety.”
“Allowed me to open up and accept who I am – Made me feel like I wasn’t alone – Felt welcome and comfortable”
Director, Student Accessibility Centre
University of Guelph
Margaret Lumley, PhD. C.Psych.
University of Guelph
University of Guelph: Department of Psychology & Student Affairs