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Students’ Union ratifies mental health advocacy policy

By Scott Strasser, April 12 2017 —

Students’ Legislative Council ratified a policy on April 11 to ensure that mental health remains an advocacy priority for the University of Calgary Students’ Union.

“Different items include advocating for sustained and increased funding from the government, as well as increasing accessibility and quality of wellness resources offered on campus,” said SU vice-president student life Patrick Ma, who proposed the policy.

Under the policy, the SU will also advocate for academic accommodations for students with mental health challenges and increased awareness of mental health support resources on campus.

Last year, the Council of Alberta University Students successfully lobbied the Alberta government to renew a mental health funding deal. The University of Calgary received $900,000 from the government to go towards mental health initiatives, which allowed the SU Wellness Centre to hire additional counsellors and extend operating hours.

In the 2017 provincial budget, the province allocated $3.6 million for mental health initiatives to Alberta’s 26 publicly funded post-secondary institutions. The government has not yet announced how much will be allocated to each school.

“I know they’re trying to move to a per-student model, That’s what we’re advocating for,” Ma said.

Ma said the SU’s policy also advocates for better teaching and learning pedagogies at the U of C. He said the university is currently looking to implement a for-credit course related to mental health skill building.

“We want students to have access to a psychology course that teaches topics such as motivation, procrastination [and] building resiliency — bringing it back to productivity and basically shaping mental health as almost a professional skill you’re going to need after you graduate,” Ma said.

Ma said the course is still in the early stages of development. The university will hire a research assistant to investigate what other universities are teaching in mental health-related courses.

“We want to make sure there’s a lot of conceptual learning [and] experiential learning,” Ma said.

The policy was approved unanimously at SLC on April 11.


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