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Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

U of C present progress on Campus Mental Health Strategy

By James Falls, March 13 2019 —

The University of Calgary released an update on its Campus Mental Health Strategy on March 7 at an extravagant event that saw speakers from around campus share their expertise.

Provost and vice-president academic Dru Marshall delivered the update to a crowded room in MacHall, highlighting progress made on recommendations for the strategy, which was launched in 2015.

“This strategy is not for students alone but for the entire campus community,” Marshall said.

Marshall said that a lack of resources to combat substance abuse was one thing the strategy recommended. She says the U of C has hired a full-time harm reduction advisor and received a grant from Alberta Health Services to launch a two-year opioid awareness program. Marshall also said that hundreds of people in the campus community have been trained on how to properly use naloxone kits.

The presentation also addressed the issue of student deaths and suicides, using the term ‘postvention,’ meaning intervention after a suicide, usually supporting bereaved individuals.

“We have developed resources and a handbook to support postvention response following a student death. We are also collaborating with the Centre for Suicide Prevention to develop a university framework to increase awareness and prevent suicide in our campus community,” Marshall added in an emailed statement to the Gauntlet after the event.

During her presentation, Marshall also announced collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to develop a new national standard for post-secondary psychological health and safety targeted at students.

“Launching in spring 2020, this is a set of voluntary guidelines, tools and resources that will revolutionize how Canadian post-secondary institutes address mental health on their campuses,” she said.

It was also announced that the university is launching an embedded certificate in Mental Wellbeing and Resilience in Fall 2019, a program that Marshall says will “give students the tools to become mental health champions in their lives and the lives of others.”

Andrew Szeto, director of the Mental Health Strategy, announced that the university is accepting applications for the third cycle of their Mental Health Grants project, offering funding up to $10,000.

Szeto also reported that the faculty of nursing has committed to adopting the Campus Mental Health Strategy.

“The faculty will begin a three-year initiative that will systematically address mental health for staff and students in the faculty,” he said.

The Faculty of Nursing is the third faculty on campus to adopt the strategy, behind the Schulich School of Engineering and the Faculty of Arts.

The presentation also saw keynote talks from artist Ian Campeau, who discussed the complex mental health issues faced by Indigenous peoples.

“There’s a direct correlation between mental wellness and colonization,” Campeau said.

Vivek Shraya, an assistant professor in the department of English, also presented, showing her short film I Want to Kill Myself. Shraya emphasized the importance of open dialogue surrounding mental health.

“Having a public event like this is so important to continuing conversations,” Shraya said.

More information on the Campus Mental Health Strategy, as well as mental health resources available to the U of C campus community, can be found here.

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