Trinity college receives $1.75 million for mental health initiative

A recently announced improved health and wellness program for students and staff is coming to Trinity College. In early December, the college announced that it had received donations totalling $1.75 million from the Trinity Alumni community. Dr. Anne Steacy ’76, a Trinity College alumna, spearheaded the financial gift with a donation of $1.5 million to establish the Anne Steacy Counselling Initiative. Michael Royce ‘68 and Sheila Northey Royce ’68 also contributed $250,000 to support the initiative. The donations are funding two health and wellness staff positions at Trinity.

The University of Toronto has offered its students professional mental health services for decades. Trinity’s initiative intends to provide additional on-site counselling services, as well as proactive outreach programming for Trinity College students to minimize long evaluation processes and navigation of complex systems.

Mayo Moran, Trinity College provost, has expressed her keen interest in supporting students’ well-being, drawing on the experience she gained as the dean of U of T Law. Taking cues from this role, studies conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), U of T provost Cheryl Regehr’s mental health committee, and initiatives happening at other universities, the provost and Trinity College administration assessed the need for increased student services.

The administration also sought input from students, who voted to levy approximately $9,000 annually for the college’s health and wellness program, in the form of a survey conducted last year, as well as informal feedback from students and leaders. “When I first started talking to students when I arrived at Trinity a lot of students identified dealing with anxiety and stress as one of their number one concerns,” said Moran.

This idea echoes research from the Anxiety and
Depression Society of America, which estimates that 62 per cent of students report “marinating in perpetual, toxic anxiety.” Likewise, a Canadian study from 2013 shows that 90 per cent of Ontario students reported feeling overwhelmed within the past 12 months.

“The research shows, to the extent where you can put support that is immediate and apparent and easy to access there is so much you can do to respond before things become acute,” said Moran. Noting the goal of establishing the program this academic year, Moran said that arrangements are already underway, with the job description and advertisement for the new full-time position of associate director, community wellness posted in early December of 2015.

The role will include hosting regular drop-in hours for one on one consultation with students, training peer counsellors and peer mentors in detail, working with dons to give them a more sophisticated set of tools to use, and liaising with student clubs, organizations, and student leaders to support and oversee special student initiated activities relating to overall health and wellness.

The associate director will work closely with Trinity’s embedded clinical counsellor, Christine Cabrera, who has been working two days a week at Trinity College since September. She is a trained clinical psychologist, and maintains close contact with U of T’s Health & Wellness service.

Both positions are a direct result of the Anne Steacy Counselling Initiative.

“We are overjoyed that trinity is committing itself to tackle the lack of mental health resources available to its students and we look forward to working closely with the Associate Director of Community and Wellness to make students more aware of mental health issues and to facilitate their access to support,” said Adriana Cefis, a spokesperson for the Trinity College Mental Health Initiative, a Trinity student group whose purpose is to promote mental health awareness within the trinity community.

Trinity’s leadership is hopeful too. “I’m excited we are leading on it, and I want it to be an opportunity for other people to learn from what we have done well and what we haven’t, frankly,” said Moran.

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