UCalgary campus

Renewal of the Campus Mental Health Strategy

We're ready to renew our vision of building a community of caring. Help us reassess, resource and recommit to the well-being of our campus community. 

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

Process evaluation

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.

 

External review

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. 

Faculty and staff survey results

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.

Key learnings

Holistic approach

Our new strategy will focus on promoting and embracing the understanding of our mental health as holistic. This means looking at the various aspects of our lives that contribute to our well-being. It recognizes that mental health is interconnected with physical, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of a person's life.

Upstream focus

Upstream mental health refers to a proactive and preventative approach to mental health care that focuses on identifying and addressing the underlying factors and conditions that contribute to mental health challenges before they escalate to more serious issues. By focusing on creating supportive and nurturing environments that foster mental well-being and resilience, we can work as a community to reduce the likelihood of individuals experiencing more severe mental health challenges later on. 

Shift academic culture

Academic culture can be collegial, spur discoveries, expand our growth, as well as build personal and professional networks. It can also contribute negatively to our well-being, due to stressors related to performance and achievement, uncertainty, competition, limited work-life balance, stigma, and feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. Our strategy works to acknowledge these cultural concerns, working across and beyond our campus to address them.

How we'll be successful

By focusing at the university-level

Our strategy operates best at an institutional level. By this, we mean the actions and initiatives we engage in are applicable and influential across the entirety of our campus and can impact our whole community, including students, faculty and staff. We will continue to partner with faculties, units and groups to assess how policies, practices and initiatives can be tailored or applied to these specific settings.

Through collaboration

We aim to strengthen collaboration with our students, faculty and staff, with cross-discipline colleagues, as well as with partners outside of our institution. Through collaboration, we can increase our impact, foster a sense of belonging, bring in diverse perspectives and strengths, enhance creativity and innovation and strengthen our flexibility and ability to adapt. 

By evaluating what we do

UCalgary is committed to continuous learning and ensuring that the mental health and well-being of the entire campus community remain an active priority. By evaluating our efforts, including our programs and trainings, we can ensure the strategy is data-driven and can help us best adapt to the changing needs of our campus community.

Community Mental Health and 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.
 

  1. Implement evidence-based holistic frameworks that support the well-being of the campus community.  
  2. Work with UCalgary institutional strategies and priorities to support a well-being focused culture.   
  3. Ensure mental health and well-being are embedded in institutional policies, processes and procedures.  
  4. Develop and grow relationships with UCalgary researchers and institutes to forward post-secondary mental health and well-being as a research priority.  
  5. 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. 

  1. Enhance community members’ ability to recognize and respond to early signs of distress in a healthy and supportive manner. 
  2. Promote protective factors and reduce risk factors that impact the well-being of the campus community. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.   

  1. Increase mental health literacy for a diverse campus audience. 
  2. Increase the availability of mental health and well-being trainings available to the campus community. 
  3. 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. 

  1. Increase awareness of existing resources available on campus and in the broader community. 
  2. Reduce the stigma related to mental illness. 
  3. 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.  
UCalgary mental health event engagement

What's next

We gathered in-person and online feedback on our renewal throughout Fall 2023. Thank you to everyone who has taken part in this engagement. Our team has reviewed this feedback and incorporated some of the key themes into our renewal draft. The renewed strategy is currently going through UCalgary's governance process, which will conclude in late spring. We will provide further updates to our community as we look forward to the launch of the renewed strategy in the fall.