Helping Ontario's colleges and universities enhance capacity to support student mental health and well-being

Campus Initiative

Speaking Your Language – MHIF (Round 2)

Project Summary:

Speaking your Language was a project generously funded by the Mental Health Innovation fund, through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and universities intended to learn more about how to address the unique mental health needs of our international students. The project was a tri-institutional partnership between University of Toronto, OCAD University, and Ryerson University.

Ryerson University, University of Toronto and OCAD University developed, tested and shared a model for collaboratively providing mental health services to culturally and linguistically diverse international students. Like all students, international students face various issues and challenges throughout their academic careers; however, evidence suggests that this population tends to underutilizes mental health care supports available across campus compared to their domestic counterparts.

Recognizing the impact differences in language and culture can represent in terms of a barrier to access and understanding this program helped expand our mental health communities to include international students, increased intercultural competency of mental health care providers and student service staff, and assisted international students in discussing mental health and connected them to services and supports.

The four components of the program were:

  1. Student engagement and peer facilitated group discussions of mental health and transitional challenges
  2. Culturally/linguistically based group counselling
  3. Knowledge gathering and dissemination and
  4. Resource creation and recommendations for future projects.

Key Outcomes:

The project has developed several sustainable tools and materials that will be housed on the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health platform and a symposium to discuss with the broader PSE community.

The awareness video that was produced by the International Student Support (ISS) at Ryerson University, as part of this project, premiered at the first ever national symposium on international student mental health which was held at Ryerson on February 20, 2015. International students from the three institutions leading this project are featured, and share their stories about mental health challenges. See the link to the video below.

Reports and Resources:

International Student Mental Health Support Toolkit for Program Planning

Literature Review

Take away resource for students

Awareness Video: What mental health means to international students 

Peer Support Training Guide for Promoting Mental Health Awareness and Support for International Students and New Canadians

CICMH March 2015 Webinar on Speaking Your Language

Counselor and Linguistic Database Survey Summary

Project Contact:

Arif Abu


Arif Abu, Coordinator, International Student Support, Ryerson University

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