Priorities

Priority One: Provide robust mental health and well-being education, training and resources for campus navigators.

Establish a working group reporting to the Advisory Committee to develop training and resource recommendations and guidance for the community. Relying upon the cross-professional expertise of the working group, this guide will explore the use of a ‘tiered’ approach to the development of resources and training that will empower the campus to ‘recognize, respond and refer’ a student in distress.

  • A special focus on support for Faculties and in particular the Academic Advisors and other ‘navigators’ (those that are in a supportive or advising role who navigate a student to appropriate services and resources) will be made. Academic Advisors play a critical role in identifying a student in distress and should receive the highest mental health education available to campus, along with support for professional development to support the increasing demands on their role.
  • Promote positive mental health and well-being and consider the potential impact on student mental health when making decisions across campus. Address attitudes and behavior through anti-stigma education, with an emphasis on normalizing help-seeking behavior and taking responsibility for oneself and each other.
Mental  Health First Aid

Implementation:

Mental Health First Aid for navigators (staff and student leaders on campus who are in a role of supporting students)

  • In consultation with Faculty, designed Pre and Post Evaluations for participants
  • Over 100 staff and student leaders trained through Student Affairs funding
  • Based upon positive feedback from campus, Human Resources is offering Mental Health First Aid to staff

Priority Two: Implement a proactive, co-ordinated, consistent and unified approach to students in difficulty across campus.

It is important to identify the varying ways a student may demonstrate distress and to create mechanisms to respond appropriately. In situations in which a student may be displaying signs of acute distress and/or at risk of harm to self or others, a more coordinated and collaborative decision-making approach is necessary to create a comprehensive and effective care plan.

  • Establish a working group reporting to the AVP Dean of Students charged with identifying ways to establish a proactive, coordinated, consistent and unified approach to students in distress: the development of mechanisms to identify students in distress, proactive coordinated responses, including processes to provide a comprehensive response to acutely distressed students.
  • Ensure that each Faculty has established processes to ensure that students are able to access an office or an identified individual who can provide advice and support for a student in difficulty. This identified office or individual should be at arm’s length from those in evaluation or disciplinary positions.
  • Establish a Postvention protocol for campus following a critical incident and develop a landscape scan procedure for identifying and mitigating environmental risks (i.e. for suicide).
  • Enhance off-campus community partnerships, with a specific focus on improving coordination and communication to support distressed students.

Implementation:

Student Affairs created a Student of Concern Protocol.

  • The Chair of the Students of Concern committee provides a coordinated, consistent and collaborative approach to responding to complex student matters on campus
  • Offices involved include Student Wellness, Student Accessibility Services, Student Conduct, Housing, Security, and the Faculties

Priority Three: Adapt accommodation policies, processes, organizational structures and pedagogies to changing and growing student mental health needs.

The number and complexity of mental health cases has resulted in a need to re-think the policies, processes, competencies and pedagogies needed to accommodate these cases in an educational environment, especially with respect to experiential learning.

  • A review of the Academic Accommodations policy is required to reflect the changing face of disability on campus (mental health concerns and illnesses rising), the highly varied environments in which education is occurring (e.g. experiential, and in particular clinical), and that reflects the unique characteristics of some mental health disabilities (e.g. some not a “permanent” diagnosis but temporary)
  • As there is a continued increase for accommodations for ‘invisible disabilities’ and an influx of students identifying with mental health difficulties without a permanent disability diagnosis but requesting accommodation who are presenting to faculties and other services (e.g. Housing, Student Conduct Office), it is necessary to assess how to effectively respond, organize and resource the campus.
  • The development of guidelines to reduce unnecessary stress/distress for students through program and course design and organization and to encourage universally accessible learning approaches while preserving academic integrity is a priority. This has the potential to reduce the need for individual mental health accommodations and to enhance student learning. This is an opportunity for McMaster to leverage and build on its expertise in innovative teaching and learning. Students and faculty will be essential partners in this area. MIETTL has also been identified as a collaborative partner in this endeavour.

Implementation:

Review of the Academic Accommodations Policy for Students with Disabilities.

  • Members of the Academic Accommodations Working Group include: Faculty, Student Support Service representatives (e.g. health professionals, disability specialist), Human Rights Specialist
  • Revised policy due for submission to Senate for approval effective September 2016

Priority Four:Increase capacity within the Student Wellness Centre building on the existing collaborative care model.

The Student Wellness Centre’s (SWC) integrated model provides a collaborative multi-disciplinary approach to care. There are more students requesting mental health support and more students presenting to SWC with complex care needs. With the increase in education, training and awareness about mental health on our campus, it is expected that more students will access the service.

  • There is a need for more mental health professionals – and more specialized – mental health service professionals within SWC, who can provide care to students who are acutely distressed.
  • Additional capacity should be focused in part on the needs of under-represented and marginalized students including: international students, students with substance abuse issues, students who have experienced trauma, students living in poverty, students from diverse/minority background and cultures.
  • Outreach to under-represented and marginalized groups who often will not present to the SWC should be an important component of the role for these additional professionals.

Implementation:

SWC is funded primarily through student fees, and decisions by students related to their fees will dictate how quickly capacity can be built.

Priority Five: Establish a program of research and health policy focused on emerging adults in post-secondary settings and building on existing McMaster strengths and resources.

Research is very limited regarding the epidemiology of mental health concerns and effective approaches among transition-aged or emerging adults in post-secondary settings, particularly in Canada. This is an area where McMaster’s expertise can not only support an evidenced-based institutional strategy, but it can also strengthen our contribution and reputation as a recognized leader in health, both nationally and internationally.

  • With the support of the Faculty of Health Sciences, we will build collaborations within McMaster and with the community that lead to increased post-secondary and transition aged youth research in mental health. Priority areas include: epidemiologic research, impact of mental health on academic outcomes, addiction in post-secondary students and suicide prevention.
Arrive and Thrive

Implementation:

Plan to coordinate a symposium highlighting research conducted by Faculty on campus related to student mental health;
Mental Health Innovation Fund awarded to McMaster.