UVic Launches Student Mental Health Strategy

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The University of Victoria is launching a comprehensive strategy to support and care for the mental health and well-being of students facing the challenges and stress of university life.

UVic’s new Student Mental Health Strategy goes beyond traditional counseling and health services support by providing campus-wide resources and training to identify students at risk and respond with appropriate actions and tools.

“Our new strategy is a comprehensive plan. We know that students who are engaged in their coursework and have a strong support network are more resilient, confident and successful,” said UVic President Jamie Cassels. “We are strengthening programs and supports to assist undergraduate and graduate students build resilience and healthy coping strategies, thereby fostering personal and academic success.”

Many mental illnesses are initially diagnosed in the ages of 18 to 25—a time when young people are dealing with the challenges of university and perhaps living away from home for the first time. In a national assessment, over a third of university students surveyed felt so depressed at some point in the past year that it was difficult to function; over nine percent seriously considered suicide.

“Stress can sneak up on you, and suddenly you may feel overwhelmed and unable to cope,” said Anthony Fast, a psychology student who lives and works as a senior community leader in campus residence. “It’s important to realize you are not alone, you are not a failure, and there are people who really do care and can help, right here on campus.”

The three-year strategy includes initiatives that focus on reducing the negative stigma associated with mental health issues, building a more welcoming and supportive university community and enhancing the university’s ability to support students who may be at risk. The strategy provides practical tools to students in distress or crisis, and offers employees the training and resources needed to support student mental health.

“The people who interact with our students on a regular basis are the ones who are most likely to notice if someone is in distress,” said Jim Dunsdon, associate vice-president of student affairs. “We want all of our employees – whether they are faculty or the folks who work across the university’s frontline services – to have simple, practical and effective tools to recognize the signs and know what they can do to help.”

The first initiatives being launched immediately include:

  • a user-friendly Student Mental Health website providing information to students, faculty/staff and families;
  • campus-wide training for faculty/staff to enhance awareness about issues and good practices;
  • Student Mental Health activity grants to support student-led activities and events; and
  • an ‘Assisting Students in Distress’ folder providing faculty and staff with quick tips and resources to support students at risk.
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