Emerging Practices

Supportive Safe & Inclusive Environment

Programs and practices that align with the first pillar of the Standard were organized into themes based on their characteristics and the ways in which they foster a supportive, safe, and inclusive post-secondary environment for students. These themes included (a) workshops, (b) roles, (c) peer supports, (d) services, (e) spaces, and (f) alternatives.


Workshops that created a supportive, safe and inclusive post-secondary environment were found on a number of university and college campuses, and often were aimed at educating staff, faculty, as well as students, on mental health and EDI principles. The Mental Health Series at St. Mary’s University is a four-part series of workshops that aims to increase the confidence of faculty and staff in supporting students in distress, thus increasing the likelihood that students on that campus would feel safe and supported. Other workshops focussed more specifically on equity education, with some targeting students, such as the Our Shared Spaces at McGill University, an educational workshop series where students are empowered to create inclusive and equitable environments on campus. The workshop sessions aim to educate students on the best ways to incorporate anti-oppressive and anti-racist values into their everyday lives. Other equity-focused workshops targeted faculty and staff, such as the Workshops for Faculty and Staff at McGill University, including topics on access in the classroom, anti-racism in teaching practice, gender diversity and inclusive language, and harassment, discrimination, and sexual violence. Additionally, the FLEX Forward Accessible Education Training at McMaster University is an online training series on accessible teaching that is strongly encouraged for all instructional staff. The training outlines principles for accessible education, course design, student engagement, and accessibility in online and technology-enhanced learning. Finally, the Positive Space Education Program at Fleming College is an informative, interactive program that helps both students and employees to be better allies to 2SLGBTQ+ students.


Some campuses opted to develop specific roles intended to cultivate a supportive, safe and inclusive environment, for instance, the Student Development Officer (SDO) for Students of African Nova Scotian and African Canadian Descent, whose job is to promote and honour the diversified culture of the African Nova Scotian or African Canadian students at Cape Breton University. The SDO ensures that students are supported, guided, and encouraged throughout their post-secondary journey. Services provided by the SDO include one-on-one and group support to African Nova Scotian or African Canadian students, advocacy, and referrals to resources and opportunities. Alternatively, the Trans Care Team at the University of Western Ontario is a group of clinicians from Student Health Services and Psychological Services who a create a specifically LGBTQIA2S+ affirmative environment in which to provide counselling and medical care to students. Physicians have received training from Rainbow Health Ontario on best practices in gender affirmative care, and they can refer to endocrine specialists or psychiatrists depending on student needs. While these roles target specific groups of marginalized students for inclusion on campus, other roles were more broad in their approach. The Wellness Supports Team at the University of Alberta works to strengthen individual and community mental health and wellbeing by providing holistic, inclusive support to students. Their services include mental health skills training for both students and staff, initiatives that challenge mental health stigma, individual support to bridge gaps and refer students to resources, facilitated peer-to-peer connection, and volunteer and outreach opportunities, among other events and activities. Similarly, the Student Support Case Management office at the University of Western Ontario helps students who are distressed, exhibiting disruptive behaviours, or struggling in some other way, by coordinating a response at both the individual and community level. Case managers provide outreach, referrals and support, working with students to explore their options and find a way forward. The role of NU Listener at Nipissing University is assigned to faculty or staff members who have been trained to provide supportive non-judgmental listening for students, and who can refer students to appropriate services. NU Listeners are identified to students by the NUListens desk sign in their office space.


Many peer support initiatives have been established that are targeted toward marginalized groups and therefore aim to create a more inclusive post-secondary environment. A number of these groups target racialized students, for example, Resiliency in Colour at St. Thomas University, a drop-in group on Microsoft Teams where individuals from the BIPOC community can come together in a casual setting. Similarly, the Black Student Support Program at Trent University is a confidential discussion group led by two student facilitators, which represents a safe space for Black Trent students to get support and engage in conversations about the Black experience at Trent. Or alternatively, the Black Student Success Network at George Brown College is a student-driven initiative based on academic tutoring, mentoring, information and referrals, and social engagement. Likewise, the Journey Together support group at the University of Western Ontario is a virtual support group for Black and Racialized students that aims to create a safe and healing space for participants to share race-related lived experiences.

Some student groups are broader in their support for marginalized students; for instance, the You Belong Here initiative at Trent University involves weekly interactive group sessions for 2SLGBTQ+ students, mature students, racialized students, and disabled students, among others. Similarly, the RISE program at Durham College offers mentorship one a one-on-one and group basis for students that are part of equity-seeking groups such as disabled students, first-generation students, racialized students, newcomers to Canada, LGBTQ+ students, and low-income students. Other peer support initiatives target specific marginalized groups such as the Landing at the University of Alberta which offers support for gender and sexually diverse students through one-on-one peer support, events and services. Some peer support groups target disabled students, such as the PMC Mentorship Volunteer Program at Carleton University, which pairs mentors and mentees who share similar disabilities or areas of study, and Maccess at McMaster University, which offers peer support in order to create a sense of community for anyone self-identifying as having a disability. The Global Peer Advisors Lending Support (PALS) program at Carleton University connects international students with an upper year or graduate student who can provide them with insights and support with navigating the social, cultural, and academic transition to university life.


Some initiatives at colleges and universities that encouraged a supportive, safe and inclusive environment were rooted in particular physical spaces on campus. The Post Alcohol Support Space (PASS) at the University of Calgary, for instance, is a medically supervised space on campus where students can go to sleep off the effects of alcohol and/or cannabis on Saturday nights. The service is confidential and open to everyone in the University of Calgary community. While this space offers a particular service intended to keep students safe, other spaces aim at generally improving students’ mental well-being, such as the Purple Couch at Algonquin College, which is a physical couch that is moved around campus and provides students with the opportunity to grab a seat and chat with the person beside them, trained student leaders, or mental health professionals. Other spaces were intended for the purpose of stress reduction, such as the Well at Trinity Western University, which is a room dedicated to rest and relaxation, and the Breathing Space at Conestoga College, a room that is stocked with stress-busting activities and which runs wellness-focused drop-in groups throughout the week.


Finally, some alternative initiatives toward a supportive, safe, and inclusive environment were found that don’t fit within the themes identified here. For instance, the Mental Health Forum at Dalhousie University is a monthly forum open to all students, faculty, and staff, which creates a platform for these stakeholders to share ideas and collaborate on mental health events, programs and campaigns. This initiative highlights the whole campus approach and is an innovative strategy to obtain student and staff input on mental health programming. The Inclusive Excellence Cohort Program at Wilfrid Laurier University, meanwhile, is an initiative to hire six new Indigenous faculty members as well as six new Black faculty members in an effort toward Indigenization, reconciliation, equity, diversity, and inclusion. This program ensures that Indigenous and Black-identifying students at Wilfrid Laurier can see themselves represented among the faculty. In an initiative aimed at engaging graduate students in the development of mental health programming, the Graduate Student Wellness Initiative Fund at York University provides grants of up to $1,500 to individuals and student groups wanting to develop programs that promote, raise awareness, or enhance the mental health and wellbeing of graduate students. This program allows graduate students the opportunity to feel engaged and included in their campus’s mental health programming. Similarly, the Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Mini-Grant Pilot at the College of the Rockies offers students grants of $500 to create projects that will foster resilience and well-being, decrease stress and anxiety, advance student wellbeing in the context of equity, diversity, and inclusion, increase peer-to-peer support, and de-stigmatize mental health issues. Some other alternative initiatives were aimed at marginalized students, such as the Say My Name campaign at George Brown College, an awareness campaign launched by the office of Anti-Racism, Equity and Human Rights, that aims to represent, learn, and celebrate the names of members of the community, particularly names that have been typically mispronounced. This campaign aims to create an inclusive environment where individuals feel accepted as their authentic selves. Meanwhile, the free chest binders and breast forms program at Brock University offers students the opportunity to receive these gender-affirming products from the Student Justice Centre after filling out a form online. This innovative program can help trans* Brock students to feel welcome and included on their campuses.

Literacy, Education, and Stigma Reduction

Programs and practices aligning with the second strategic pillar of the Standard were organized into themes according to the format through which they employ literacy, education, and stigma reduction strategies on campus. These themes included (a) events, (b) workshops, and (c) educators, with one alternative program that did not fit into these themes.


Events that focus on literacy, education, and stigma reduction were found on a number of university and college campuses. For instance, at Holland College, students faculty and staff are all invited to participate in Wellness Week, which includes a variety of events that promote well-being and bring awareness to the ways that individuals can support their health and wellness at the College. Similarly, the Acadia Mental Health Initiative at Acadia University includes Mental Health Week, which features a student resource fair, a community conversation, and two workshops. At the Toronto Metropolitan University, meanwhile, the organization Students for Mental Awareness, Support, & Health facilitates peer-to-peer support through events such as Chill Sessions or Mental Health Talks, which increase awareness of the importance of mental health and well-being and provide education and advocacy for students.


The workshops aiming to improve mental health literacy and stigma reduction could be further classified into workshops targeting faculty and staff, workshops targeting students, and workshops aimed at everyone in the campus community. The Mental Health Series at St. Mary’s University, mentioned in the previous section, is an example of a workshop series targeting faculty and staff.

Most of the rest of the workshops collected here target students for mental health education. For example, WellU Resilience at Lakehead University is an 8-week, evidence-based course designed to teach students to manage stress in healthy ways. The course includes videos, slideshows, skill-building activities, resources, and information to help students build resilience. The Student Wellness Centre at Wilfrid Laurier University has two certificate programs for students related to mental health and wellbeing: the Wellness Education Certificate, and the Skills to Thrive Certificate. Both are intended to provide strategies to stay well on campus, but can also be added to the Laurier Experience Record or one’s resume in order to signal one’s commitment to health and wellness. Similarly, the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University offers a free certificate program in personal wellness and learning skills. The program includes five sessions offered weekly, with a focus on developing strategies to improve personal wellness while also building connections with other graduate students. Thriving in Action, a program created by Toronto Metropolitan University that has been implemented on several campuses, is an 8-10 week student group, designed to help students enhance their well-being and success at college, teaching skills such as self-compassion, perseverance, gratitude, and more.

Finally, the following programs are targeted at the entire campus community. At Algonquin College, the Umbrella Project is a program aiming to create a safer space on campus to discuss the use of alcohol and other drugs, and does so by providing training, workshops, awareness, and support services for both students and employees. Focusing more on acutely distressed students, the Recognizing and Responding to a Person in Distress Workshop from the University of Waterloo aims to provide both students and employees with the skills and confidence to support other students or colleagues who may be experiencing distress. Finally, the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health offers a free virtual course for non-clinical staff and students to learn how best to support a colleague or student who is struggling with their mental health. The course teaches participants how to recognize the signs of someone struggling, respond with empathy, refer to resources, and reflect on their experience of helping.


Many colleges and universities have opted to create an educator role on campus in an effort to advance mental health literacy. Some of these roles have been assigned to employees of the college or university, though the majority have been assigned to student volunteers. Local Wellness Advisors at McGill University, for instance, are mental health clinicians who have been assigned to particular faculties and services at McGill University. These Local Wellness Advisors have similar educational backgrounds to counsellors, and they facilitate wellness programming that is specific to the faculty or community to which they are assigned. They also work with departments on wellness prevention and early intervention, as well as providing one-on-one appointments for students.

On the other hand, Peer Wellness Educator Volunteers at Brandon University are a team of students who plan and promote thematic outreach programs for students on wellness topics such as sexual health, emotional wellbeing, and stress management, among others. Similarly, the Health & Wellness Peer Educators at the University of Winnipeg are a group of students that focus on increasing campus awareness of the seven dimensions of wellness. The group promotes health and wellness education on campus by delivering outreach programs with the goal of encouraging the University of Winnipeg community to engage in positive, strength-based behaviours when faced with challenges. At the University of Saskatchewan, Peer Health is an initiative run by student staff and volunteers, which aims to help students develop health knowledge and skills, provide evidence-based health promotion programs based on current research, and to improve student leadership and personal growth. Peer Health volunteers offer a drop-in service for non-judgmental listening and support, but also create social media posts on health topics, run presentations, webinars, and panels, and offer campaigns, incentives and giveaways. Finally, Peer Health Educators at Ambrose University are students who are in their second year or higher, and who work with Student Life and the Wellness Office to promote the spiritual, social, emotional, physical and intellectual well-being of students. The Peer Health Outreach Team specifically helps raise awareness around mental health and wellness through different programming and events.


In a particularly innovative program aimed at improving mental health literacy on campus, Northern Lakes College offers students a Wellness Passport. The Wellness Passport is an introduction to the importance of participating in the 8 dimensions of wellness, and is a virtual passport-looking document available to all students. Each dimension of wellness is represented by a Wellness Journey, which includes several fun and interesting challenges and tasks for students to do that will improve their personal wellness. Students are encouraged to place a check mark or date next to the challenge each time they complete a challenge within each journey.


Programs and practices aligning with the third strategic pillar of the Standard were organized into themes according to the format through which they encourage accessibility on campus. These themes included (a) workshops, (b) lending, (c) services, (d) peer support, and (e) space, with two alternative programs that did not fit into these themes.


A number of the workshops offered by colleges and universities were aimed at orienting students with disabilities to the offices for accessibility and accommodation. For example, the ABLE@Dal orientation is an event intended for Dalhousie and King’s students with permanent disabilities entering their first year, that receive or intend to receive academic accommodations. The program is facilitated by faculty, staff and students, and centers around developing skills and learning strategies for academic success. Similarly, the Partners in Accessibility at Laurentian (PAL) program at Laurentian University is an orientation event for incoming Laurentian students with disabilities. During the event, participants learn about learning strategies, support services, and accommodation planning, as well as getting to experience a mock lecture and a student and faculty panel discussion. McMaster University offers a similar Transition Program, intended for incoming McMaster students with disabilities and accessibility needs. Students can access the live workshop or the online asynchronous workshop, which reviews university learning, the offerings of Student Accessibility Services, and accommodations. At Cambrian College, the Head Start program is a virtual week-long orientation session targeted at students registered with the Glenn Crombie Centre, aiming to help students get ready for college. Other workshops were aimed at encouraging accessibility in the classroom, such as the FLEX Forward Accessible Education training at McMaster University, an online training series on accessible teaching that is strongly encouraged for all instructional staff. The training outlines principles for accessible education, course design, student engagement, and accessibility in online and technology-enhanced learning. Finally, one workshop from Memorial University’s student accessibility centre, in collaboration with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for the Deaf, teaches American Sign Language for students over the course of 8 weeks. Participants learn an introduction to ASL and have the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the Deaf culture and community.


Some institutions have established assistive technology lending programs, where students needing accommodations can borrow assistive technology to determine whether it meets their needs. The Assistive Technology Lending Library at Dalhousie University aims to reduce the financial burden for students who are trying out new supports and includes items such as ergonomic equipment, dictation software, recording devices, tablets, and screen magnifiers. Similarly, the Meighen Centre Lending Library at Mount Allison University has a variety of assistive technology available to loan to students for a semester at a time, including smart pens, iPads, and laptops. McMaster University’s Campus Accessible Tech Space is also able to loan assistive technology from their service desk, as does the Algonquin College Assistive Technology Lab. These programs increase the overall accessibility of learning at their respective institutions and therefore align well with the third pillar of the standard.


Other institutions have made particular services available to students with disabilities that can either help them to receive a diagnosis or cope with the demands of post-secondary education. The Adult ADHD Clinic at the University of Prince Edward Island, for example, sees patients 16 years or older who have ADHD, as well as adults who haven’t been diagnosed but have symptoms of ADHD. The clinic can provide both diagnosis and treatment. Similarly at Holland College, assessment services are trained and qualified to administer, score and interpret psychological and educational tests, and can help students determine whether they have a learning disability. The diagnostic assessment occurs over a series of three to six meetings, after which a report is prepared. At the University of Manitoba, the Learning Disability Services Clinic is a service jointly run by the Student Counselling Centre and the Psychological Service Centre, which provides assessments for learning disabilities for University of Manitoba students, specifically related to reading, writing, math, and attention-related problems. Services which support students in managing their disability include the Learning Disability Enhanced Services at Brock University, which is made up of two different services. The learning strategist can complete a psycho-educational assessment with the student, and then use that with the student’s program of study and individual needs to provide individualized academic strategies. Additionally, the assistive technologist can help students use their technology recommendations by providing technology demonstrations, training and general support.


A number of peer support initiatives have been established at post-secondary institutions that target the inclusion of students with disabilities. Carleton University’s PMC Mentorship Volunteer Program, for instance, connects students with experience at the Paul Menton Centre (PMC) with new students to the PMC, to help students with disabilities feel comfortable in a university setting. The centre aims to pair students who share similar disabilities or areas of study. Similarly, Maccess at McMaster University is a peer support, advocacy, and community centre run by the McMaster Student Union for students who experience disability, chronic illness, mental health concerns, or inaccessibility. The centre offers programming and events to create a sense of community for anyone self-identifying as having a disability. Peer support is offered by trained volunteers with lived experiences of disability, chronic illness, mental illness, madness, mental health concerns, or neurodivergence. At the University of Toronto, the Peer Advisor Drop-In Sessions are group sessions facilitated by peer advisors, specifically for students who are registered with accessibility services, or who are considering registering with accessibility services. The sessions offer an opportunity for students to chat with their peers and learn about how to use accommodations. One peer support initiative out of Humber College, the ASD Social Group, is intended for student who identify as living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The group provides students with an opportunity to connect with each other as they delve into topics related to communication and interaction. Sessions are delivered in a relaxed, visual, structured and interactive manner, as is the recommended learning style of people with ASD.


Several institutions have established accessibility initiatives that are based on physical spaces on campus that can provide greater access to students with disabilities. McMaster University’s Campus Accessible Tech Space is a wheelchair-accessible, scent-free space located in the Mills library. The space features a quiet conversation area, a silent study area, an aquarium, and private study booths that include heigh-adjustable tables with built-in digital memory controllers. Along those same lines, Dawson College’s Inclusion Solution Assistive Technology Lab is equipped with six computers, heigh adjustable desks, a SmartBoard, and several specialized software packages and devices to address a wide variety of learning needs. Algonquin College has its own Centre for Accessible Learning Assistive Technology Lab, which features accessible workstations, a meeting room, lab monitors, transcription services, and an assistive technologist. Additionally, the Quiet Room at Champlain College, is a safe space dedicated to students who use the Student Access Centre (SAC), and features computers adapted to be accessible to all SAC students, equipped with specialized software such as Word Q, Antidote, Adobe Acrobat, and more. Toronto Metropolitan University, meanwhile, offers Access Tours, which are tours of the Toronto Metropolitan University campus with a focus on the campus’ accessibility features, led by students and staff who identify as having disabilities and who benefit from the barrier-free routes and spaces that are featured in the tours. The tours are designed for students with mobility impairments but also address access for students with non-physical disabilities as well.


Two programs were found that addressed accessibility in a novel way that was not captured in the themes above. RyeACCESS is an initiative by the Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union, and represents one of the six equity service centres. The RyeACCESS team works through advocacy, campaigns, outreach, education, and events. Their focus is on both systemic and individual issues in order to promote the empowerment, autonomy, and freedom of students with disabilities. On the other hand, Strengthening Accessibility & Inclusion within Professional Programs is a virtual conference hosted every year by the University of Toronto accessibility office. The conference delves into the improvement of equity, accessibility, and inclusion in practicums and at experiential learning sites, creating opportunities for accessibility staff to learn best practices and better support students with disabilities, particularly those in professional programs.

Early Intervention

Programs and practices aligning with the fourth strategic pillar of the Standard were organized into themes according to the format used to encourage the early intervention of mental health struggles. These themes included (a) roles, (b) teams, and (c) online forms, with one alternative program that did not fit into these themes. Interestingly, the majority of early intervention programs collected here were developed by colleges in western Canada.


Some institutions opted to develop a particular role intended to catch student distress early before it requires a crisis response. For example, the Local Wellness Advisor role at McGill University, mentioned in a previous section of this environmental scan, works with departments on wellness prevention and early intervention. Nipissing University’s NU Listens program, also mentioned previously, includes the role of NU Listener, which is a faculty or staff member who has been trained to provide supportive, non-judgmental listening for students and can refer them to appropriate services if needed. At Capilano University, the Your Early Support (YES) program connects students to a trained student support advisor at the Office of Student Affairs, who can meet with them to discuss their identified needs and connect them to resources both on and off campus. Other roles are more specifically targeted at early intervention, such as in the ACCESS Open Minds program at the University of Alberta. ACCESS Open Minds at the University of Alberta represents a network of delegates from various health, academic and non-academic services who may encounter students struggling with their mental health, led by a group of ACCESS Open Minds clinicians. The network meets monthly to discuss the referral process, how to reduce barriers to accessing services, and trends in student concerns. While students can self-refer to the program, the majority of students are referred to ACCESS Open Minds clinicians through the network. Students then receive an initial session within 72 hours in which their needs are identified, and any referrals and case management work are conducted.


Some institutions have established entire teams of professionals who can support students in early intervention. For instance, the Early Assist Team at North Island College offers a ‘one-stop shop’ for connecting students with campus and community resources, whether they be personal or academic, and students can be referred to the team by faculty or staff. Selkirk College similarly offers the Early Alert Support System, which runs for the first weeks of the fall and winter semesters. In this program, instructors, support staff, and students can refer themselves or their peers to be connected to a member of the Student Access & Support team for early intervention support.


Many colleges have established online forms for the referral of students or community members in the early stages of struggling with their mental health. These forms are often triaged for follow-up by the appropriate student department. For instance, Keyano College’s Early Alert Referral Form collects information from either students or employees about struggling students. The British Columbia Institute of Technology offers Early Assist, which collects information about students struggling with their mental health in order to connect them with the appropriate resource. Early Assist staff can also be contacted by email and phone to answer questions about the program, including whether or when to submit a referral. At Coast Mountain College, the Early Alert Referral Form connects students with a Learner Services staff member who can help with the next steps. Early Alert at Vancouver Island University has an online form that is triaged by Student Affairs and connects students to counselling services, academic advising, accessibility services, financial aid and awards, and the Conduct and Care Office. Finally, one online form called the Mental Health Check at Bow Valley College acts as an educational mental health screening to help students determine whether they may need to reach out to a doctor or mental health professional.


In one innovative initiative by the University of Toronto, Navi is a chat-based wayfinder or navigator intended to guide students who are looking for mental health support at the University of Toronto. Navi works as a virtual assistant to quickly search and provide students with contact information and direct links to both on and off-campus mental health resources.

Mental Health Supports

Programs and practices aligning with the fifth strategic pillar of Mental Health Supports were organized into themes according to the format through which those supports are provided. These themes included (a) virtual, (b) teams, (c) support groups, (d) roles, (e) spaces, and (f) peer support, with two alternative programs that did not fit into these themes.


Virtual mental health supports have been growing in popularity over the last several years, particularly after many institutions pivoted to online learning over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. One example of such a service is the Bridge the GApp Youth online app, developed by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and offered at all Newfoundland and Labrador institutions. The app provides guidance and support around mental health and addictions, and users can access tools, mental health advice, inspiration, and directions for finding additional support. Similarly, Healthy Minds NS is a collection of virtual and telephone mental health resources accessible by all post-secondary students in Nova Scotia in order to supplement the mental health supports and services available on Nova Scotian campuses. Alternatively, Nipissing University offers counsellor-assisted e-support, a flexible counselling option that allows students to work independently on their mental health through various mental health support modules created in-house, that combine psychoeducation, reflection, and practice of new skills. The program also offers bi-weekly contact with a counsellor for students to discuss their growth and attend to any challenges that have come up in their learning.


Some institutions have established multidisciplinary teams that directly offer support to students for their mental health, such as the Student of Concern Case Team at Mount Allison University. This team works closely with academic, administrative, and support departments, student groups, and other stakeholders to provide a coordinated response and support plan for students who have been flagged as being in distress. The team aims to prevent students from harming themselves, developing strategies and interventions to address each case. At the University of Alberta, the Wellness Supports Team works to strengthen individual and community mental health and well-being by providing holistic, inclusive support to students. Their services include mental health skills training for both students and staff, initiatives that challenge mental health stigma, as well as individual support to bridge gaps and refer students to resources. Similarly, the Coordinated Care program at the University of Calgary offers a team of Student Support Advisors, including registered social workers and one registered nurse, to support students with their academic and personal journeys as an alternative to one-on-one counselling. Advisors help manage stressors, provide practical problem-solving, engage in resource navigation, as well as providing referrals to on- and off-campus resources. Likewise, the CARE Team at Royal Roads University works to assess, refer, and respond to students who have been flagged as demonstrating distress or concerning behaviour. Students may be referred by anyone in the Royal Roads community, including other students.


A number of support groups have been established across Canadian post-secondary institutions, which offer both the opportunity for facilitated mental health support, as well as peer support in the form of validation and understanding from other students. At Bishop’s University, the Eating Disorders Support Group is intended for students of all genders who are dealing with any type of disordered eating, with or without a diagnosis. The group creates a safe space where participants can explore the functions of disordered eating and get support in their recovery. McGill University runs both Masters and PhD support groups, intended for McGill graduate students who may be struggling to balance their academic and personal lives, or to retain their focus and motivation on their studies. The support group provides encouragement, guidance, and a sense of connectedness for students, and the sessions are facilitated by McGill Local Wellness Advisors. All People All Pathways is a program in partnership between the Community Addictions Peer Support Association (CAPSA) and Carleton University, which offers weekly support meetings for folks on campus affected by substance use and addiction, facilitated by individuals with lived or living experience. Staff and faculty can also attend their own support meetings separate from students. Saskatchewan Polytechnic offers an IBPOC Gathering Group, which welcomes any student identifying as Indigenous, Black, or as a Person of Colour. The group offers a space to share experiences, foster community, and support well-being. The group is facilitated by Saskatchewan Polytechnic counsellors, but student input guides the group. Meanwhile, the Nursing Group at Medicine Hat College is a drop-in group exclusively for nursing students, that offers a safe space to talk about the stresses of their program and discuss ways to practice self-care. Langara College offers an Iranian Student Support Group, a confidential gathering space facilitated by two Langara counsellors that aims to provide a safe forum to share how Iranian events are impacting students. Finally, the University of the Fraser Valley has created the LGBTQIA2S+ Support Group, in collaboration with the UFV Pride Collective and UFV counsellors, a virtual safe space for queer UFV students which explores topics such as (not) coming out, demystifying sexuality, and more.


A number of roles outside of the role of counsellor have also been created across universities and colleges in Canada that directly support students’ mental health. The Local Wellness Advisors at McGill University, mentioned earlier in this environmental scan, have similar educational backgrounds to counsellors, but they facilitate wellness programming that is specific to the faculty or community to which they are assigned, and also offer one-on-one appointments for students. The University of Alberta also offers satellite psychologists that are assigned to particular faculties and provide counselling to students across campus. The program aims to help faculty and staff build skills to best support student mental health, as well as to increase access to psychological consultations for students. Access Case Managers at Simon Fraser University are staff that provide one-on-one support in a drop-in environment, helping students to navigate services and to feel heard and supported. Seneca College offers the role of Student Support & Intervention Specialists, who focus on providing a supportive, goal-oriented relationship with students to collaboratively develop a plan to support their success. They may work with students in consultation with faculty, campus resources, and external supports in the community to ensure students have appropriate support. Keyano College has also created the role of the Wellness Navigator, who supports students by connecting them with campus services, community organizations, or government programs that may be helpful for students.


Several programs were found that provide mental health supports grounded in a physical space on campus, and all of those programs were based on providing light therapy lamps to students. The Light Therapy Lounge at Canadore College features specialty daylight spectrum lighting and lamps, designed to help combat a number of health and mental health challenges such as seasonal affective disorder, general lack of energy, depression, and insomnia. The British Columbia Institute of Technology offers what they call Sun Stations, a collection of 11 full-spectrum lighting stations that don’t require registration and are free for all community members to use. The University of Toronto offers light therapy lamps, designed to mimic spring and summer light levels, for student use at the Robarts library. Acadia University similarly offers light therapy lamps at the access desk of their Vaughan Memorial Library. At McGill University, students can loan light therapy lamps from the Post-Graduate Student Society for a period of up to 2 weeks. At the University of Ottawa, light therapy lamps are available to borrow from a number of different libraries for up to seven days, with one renewal available. At the University of British Columbia, two different libraries offer light therapy lamps that students can sign up to use on a first-come-first-served basis. Concordia University similarly offers students the opportunity to borrow light therapy lamps from the library for loans of up to one day. Finally, the University of Waterloo has set up two light therapy lamps in the third-floor lounge and computer workspace in the Psychology, Anthropology, and Sociology building for use by both staff and students.


Peer support initiatives were by far the most prevalent mental health supports available to students across Canadian post-secondary institutions. A total of 34 universities and colleges had peer support programs listed on their websites as an alternative form of mental health support to traditional counselling. The majority of peer support programs offered training for peer supporters focussed on active listening, boundaries, confidentiality, and referral to resources. Some peer support programs involved an element of supervision by a mental health professional, such as programs at the University of Ottawa and the University of Western Ontario. Other programs offered virtual peer support, such as the programs at the University of Windsor and Centennial College. Of note, Carleton University offers three different peer support programs with different aims. Community Connections is a year-long peer mentorship program intended to provide Carleton students with resources, skills and tools to improve their well-being and connections within the campus community. There are two pathways that students can register in: Community Building & Belonging and Positive Mental Health & Well-Being, each providing different kinds of support. Community Connections has also created partnerships to offer Peer Mentorship programs for Indigenous students, Muslim students, 2SLGBTQ students, as well as African, Caribbean, and Black students. The Global PALS program at Carleton University, mentioned earlier in this environmental scan, connects international students with an upper-year or graduate student who provides them with insights and support in navigating the social, cultural, and academic transition. And finally, Mental Wellness Mentors are Carleton University students who provide non-judgmental and confidential mentorship to students in residence, specifically around their transition to university. The peer mentors offer coping strategies and other supports to help students with their mental wellness.

The University of British Columbia, on the other hand, offered peer support in a slightly different format. The UBC Student Recovery Community is an inclusive space designed for students who are either in recovery or are open to exploring their relationship with alcohol, drugs, and/or addictive behaviours such as disordered eating, gaming, and gambling. The program works on a peer support model that is evidence-based and intended to empower students with lived experience to support each other in their individual recoveries and is open to all pathways of recovery, including abstinence as well as harm reduction.


Two programs were found that offered direct mental health support in formats that did not fit within the themes noted above. At Royal Roads University, when students are experiencing an unexpected stressful situation, such as the loss of a family member or friend or similar circumstances, Royal Roads counsellors may provide a Letter of Consideration to encourage instructors to provide flexibility in assignments, particularly when students feel uncomfortable reaching out directly to their professor. Students may then work with both the counsellor and instructor to develop a plan to complete their work. Meanwhile, Lakehead University offers WellU Resilience, an 8-week, evidence-based course designed to teach students to manage stress in healthy ways. The course includes videos, slideshows, skill-building activities, resources and information intended to help students build resilience. Participants learn skills and habits that have been proven to increase life satisfaction and resilience.

Crisis Management and Postvention

Programs and practices aligning with the sixth and final strategic pillar of the Standard were organized into themes according to the format through which crisis management was coordinated. These themes included (a) teams, and (b) phone lines, with several alternative programs that did not fit into these themes.


Some universities and colleges have opted to develop teams of professionals that can respond to students in crisis. For example, the Student at Risk Team at the University of Calgary is a multidisciplinary team of campus staff that respond when a student is identified as being “at risk” by other students, faculty, or staff. The team will conduct an assessment and ensure that the student has the necessary supports, preventing the situation from escalating. The CARE Team at Royal Roads University, which has been mentioned earlier in this environmental scan, works to assess, refer, and respond to students who have been flagged as demonstrating distress or concerning behaviour. Students may be referred by anyone in the Royal Roads community, including other students. The Student of Concern Case Team at Mount Alison University, also mentioned earlier in this environmental scan, works closely with academic, administrative, and support departments, student groups, and other stakeholders to provide a coordinated response and support plan for students who have been flagged as being in distress. The team aims to prevent students from harming themselves, developing strategies and interventions to address each case. Finally, the Student at Risk Support Team at Medicine Hat College responds to concerns around mental and physical well-being, security and academic issues, and can help students find the appropriate supports on campus.


One college and one university in our search have dedicated phone lines available that students in crisis can call. Students at Brock University can contact the Crisis Phone Line, which is available all year, 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Similarly, at Algonquin College, students have access to the Student Distress Line, which enables them to get an immediate appointment with Counselling Services during hours of operation.


Two programs were found that address crisis management in a format not captured by the themes above. The University of Calgary maintains a Suicide Awareness and Prevention Framework based on the principles within the Zero Suicide Framework. The seven-stage framework prevents suicides by providing personalized support through crisis and connecting suicidal students to resources that maintain their recovery. Meanwhile, the University of British Columbia has developed an introductory course on suicide awareness and intervention for UBC students, faculty, staff, and alumni that is specific to the post-secondary context and is trauma-informed and culturally competent. The course contains one asynchronous on-demand section, followed by a synchronous facilitated section.

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