Distressing events, combined with national mental health trends, motivated UCalgary to strike a task force in 2014 to develop a comprehensive strategy on mental health. Formally launched in 2015, the Campus Mental Health Strategy was created to include six strategic focus areas, along with 28 recommendations. The strategy is a whole-campus approach, meaning community members of all levels (from students to researchers, staff and faculty, to senior administrators) contribute to the health of our campus community and the ability for all of us to flourish.
Since the Campus Mental Health Strategy was implemented, a lot has been done to nurture a caring campus community. Most recently, we've worked with faculty, staff and students to create more community stories. We've co-created a national conference on post-secondary mental health and well-being. We've implemented the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace. We've seen more students complete our Embedded Certificate in Mental Well-Being and Resilience, and so much more.
Now UCalgary is ready to renew our commitment to the mental health and well-being of our community. We've been gathering data and consulting members of our UCalgary students, faculty and staff and have a draft of our new strategy to share.
What we’ve heard
A process evaluation helped the CMHS better understand if existing program and strategy goals were met. A survey was distributed to 55 individuals involved with the strategy, and an additional 14 semi-structured interviews were also conducted. Strengths, needs and recommendations were developed and presented at Collaborations for Change, a new biannual conference on post-secondary mental health.
Academic leaders from across Canada and the U.S. reviewed background documentation and interviewed a broad range of stakeholders in an external review of the strategy. A report was prepared that summarized findings and observations, providing high-level recommendations for the CMHS.
Student, staff and faculty data
We recently conducted a survey and followup focus groups to evaluate staff and faculty mental health and well-being and help us inform our strategy renewal.
Elders Leadership Circle for Sustainability and Campus Mental Health
In collaboration with the Institutional Sustainability Strategy, we've worked with a group of local Elders to advise and inform on the renewal of both that strategy and our Campus Mental Health Strategy. Through ongoing conversations, we have listened and learned about Indigenous perspectives about well-being, as well as the importance of relationships and community.
In addition to our external review and process evaluation, Elder’s Leadership Circle and Faculty and Staff Mental Health and Well-Being Survey, we've also gathered data from our partners on and off campus, including utilizing findings from the Canadian Campus Well-Being Survey, the Graduate Mental Health and Well-Being Survey, and more.
The strategy also continues to be guided by pressing social issues, environmental conditions, current UCalgary plans, as well as by community and organizational best practices.
Examples of these include:
The socio-ecological framework recommended by the National Standards of Canada for Mental Health and Wellbeing for Post-Secondary Students, 2020; the five actions of health promotion in the Ottawa Charter; the calls to action outlined in the Okanagan Charter, 2015; as well as UCalgary's Academic Plan, Ahead of Tomorrow, and Staff Wellness' Well-Being and Worklife Strategy.
We've gathered a lot of information from these foundational documents, survey results and evaluations, and continue to seek ongoing, meaningful engagement with our community.
Here are some high-level findings we've taken into account while forming our new strategy.
How we'll be successful
Community Well-Being Strategy Guiding Principles
Thanks to the work of evaluation teams and external consultants consolidating and synthesizing all of the data, we've come up with four informed guiding principles to charter our course. There four new guiding principles help us narrow our focus and better reflect our current environment and the needs of our community.
#1 Influence Culture and Sustain an Environment that Values Well-Being
To create sustainable, positive change in the mental health and well-being of all UCalgary community members, we must prioritize a holistic approach to creating and sustaining supportive environments.
- Implement evidence-based holistic frameworks that support the well-being of the campus community.
- Work with UCalgary institutional strategies and priorities to support a well-being focused culture.
- Ensure mental health and well-being are embedded in institutional policies, processes and procedures.
- Develop and grow relationships with UCalgary researchers and institutes to forward post-secondary mental health and well-being as a research priority.
- Lead in the post-secondary mental health and well-being space at the local, provincial and national levels.
- Continue to prioritize and implement the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace and the National Standard for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students.
- Continue to support the implementation of UCalgary’s Suicide Awareness and Prevention Framework.
- Continue to support the implementation of the Wellbeing and Worklife Strategy.
- Continue to work with the Institutional Sustainability Strategy to address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (e.g., Goal 3 - Good Health and Well-Being).
- Continue to work with Legal Services to examine policies, processes and procedures through a mental health and well-being lens.
- Continue partnership with the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education on identifying post-secondary well-being research opportunities.
- Continue to support and grow the national Collaborations for Change Conference.
#2 Enable Campus Community Members to Sustain Supportive Environments for Well-Being
Work collaboratively at various levels of our campus to create and maintain environments where everyone can flourish.
- Enhance community members’ ability to recognize and respond to early signs of distress in a healthy and supportive manner.
- Promote protective factors and reduce risk factors that impact the well-being of the campus community.
- Continue to integrate mental health and well-being into teaching and learning through working with the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning and other campus leaders.
- Work with Student Wellness Services and Staff Wellness to support faculties and units in creating well-being strategic plans and initiatives.
- Continue to work with faculty, units and departments to prioritize and implement mental health and well-being initiatives that are relevant and contexualized to their settings.
- Continue to promote the psychosocial factors outlined in the National Standards for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace and the National Standard for Mental Health and Wellbeing for Post-Secondary Students.
- Support campus units to address workload management and increase work/life balance.
- Continue to expand the Embedded Certificate for Mental Wellbeing and Resilience.
- Work with campus teaching and learning leaders to create and implement resources that support well-being in the classroom and learning environment.
- Work with UCalgary faculty and units to adopt and implement the Community Well-being Strategy.
#3 Advance Literacy, Skill and Understanding to Support Ourselves and Others
Increase mental health literacy and skills that support our own well-being and the well-being of the campus community.
- Increase mental health literacy for a diverse campus audience.
- Increase the availability of mental health and well-being trainings available to the campus community.
- Continually listen to campus community members to understand their skill-development needs and facilitate to meet these needs through programs, training and workshops with a particular focus on upstream (i.e., health promotion and prevention) and holistic approaches.
- Continue to support the implementation of workshops, training and programs offered by Student Wellness Services and Staff Wellness.
- Support the implementation of campus-wide offerings that advance the well-being skills of the campus community, such as the Summer Wellness Series and UFlourish.
- Work with campus partners (e.g., Active Living) to support a holistic approach to well-being.
- Support the implementation of gatekeeper training and suicide intervention skills within the campus community.
- Support the skills development of campus community members so they can support someone in distress by listening empathetically and referring to appropriate resources.
- Continue to support and promote harm reduction and recovery-oriented resources (e.g., University of Calgary Recovery Community).
#4 Facilitate Access to Supports On and Off Campus
Facilitate access to mental health and well-being services and supports that meet the varied needs of the UCalgary campus community.
- Increase awareness of existing resources available on campus and in the broader community.
- Reduce the stigma related to mental illness.
- Where appropriate and feasible, facilitate the expansion of existing resources and/or development of new resources with campus and broader community partners.
- Continue the promotion of campus and broader community resources and services in collaboration with Student Wellness Services, Staff Wellness and other campus partners.
- Find appropriate and relevant ways to inform the campus community about the types and models of services and supports on campus (e.g., clearly communicate the collaborative care model).
- Increase use of social media as a tool to highlight resources and services, as well as to support the work of the strategy.
- Continue implementing awareness and anti-stigma campaigns, highlighting the lived experience of campus community members.
- Expand available resources and programming for parents/families/caregivers of students.
- Support the development of peer-support initiatives focused on mental health and well-being for the campus community.
- Continue to optimize the Community Well-Being Strategy website and facilitate the optimization of other UCalgary well-being websites and content.
We've gathered in-person and online feedback on our renewal throughout Fall 2023. Our evaluation team will now evaluate this feedback to ensure our renewed strategy resonates with our and reflects their needs. We hope to provide an update to our community in Winter 2024.