University at the forefront of mental health programs and awareness
The first study to examine mental health first aid programs in North American post-secondary education institutions confirms Queen’s as a leader in providing mental health first aid (MHFA) education and spreading awareness of mental health issues.
“We are encouraged by the commitment of Student Affairs staff to reducing the stigma of mental health problems by building a community of awareness, education and support,” says Jennifer Massey, the study’s author and director of Career Services, Research and Assessment, and Graduate Student Life.
The university began offering mental health first aid (MHFA) education to Student Affairs front line staff in 2008, at a time when only professionals working in the mental health field and university administration received the training.
Based on surveys and interviews with participants before and after they were trained, the study highlights an increase in:
• knowledge of mental health and related services at Queen’s especially with the most severe mental health conditions such as schizophrenia
• sensitivity and openness towards individuals with mental health conditions, and
• confidence in staff members’ abilities to both recognize mental health issues and related services at Queen’s
“The study findings reinforce the importance of having all Student Affairs staff trained so that we are all in a position to help students if we need to,” says Mike Condra, director of Health, Counselling and Disability Services.
In addition to MHFA education, the Jack Project – aimed at stigma reduction and mental health support for young adults – has enhanced the university’s efforts at raising awareness about mental health over the last six months. Queen’s partnered on the project with Eric Windeler and his family, after they lost their son Jack to suicide on campus last March.
Building on the action taken at Queen’s, including a training video that will be used in at least 15 countries around the world, the Jack Project aims to expand its outreach to 300 high schools and 20 colleges/universities in the next two years. The Jack Project is also encouraging MHFA training for staff and students to develop mental health awareness, education and support.
All Student Affairs staff members have now received MHFA training. The university is currently examining how it will offer MHFA in the future.
The Queen’s study was funded by the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals. Ms Massey and Beth Doxsee, one of Queen’s MHFA trainers, recently presented the findings at the International Conference on Mental Health in Washington, D.C.