Mental health initiatives have impact
Since May 2011, more than 3,000 faculty, staff and students have been educated about how to identify and help students in distress, and demand for this training continues to grow.
Mike Condra, Director, Health, Counselling and Disability Services, says at the same time, changes at the Student Counselling Service have reduced wait times for counselling and ensured students in crisis are seen as quickly as possible.
“Our ability to respond quickly to students in crisis as well as to those who are not, but need support, has significantly improved,” says Dr. Condra. “We have more counsellors available and we have implemented a new system that provides much faster access to an initial appointment. We’re also seeing a significant increase in the number of calls we are getting from faculty and staff who want to consult with us regarding students they are worried about. This a really positive sign that awareness is increasing and people are reaching out to students who may need some help.”
In addition, the Student Health Service has hired a mental health nurse, who works closely with both physicians and counsellors to provide both mental health assessments and longer-term support for students with mental health concerns.
The most popular education session that’s now offered -- Identifying and responding to students in distress -- is 45 minutes long and provided by five specially-trained Student Affairs staff. “It can be easily and quickly scheduled,” says Dr. Condra.
The university is also providing training program that run for a half-day or full day (Mental Health Helping Skills) or the two-day Mental Health First Aid (MHFA). The next MHFA session is scheduled for Thursday, February 23 and Friday, February 24. If your unit is interested in receiving any of this training, please contact Bonnie Livingstone at ext. 78886. For more information, visit the Student Affairs website.
Queen’s is also participating in the pilot phase of The Jack Project, an organization started by the family of a Queen’s student who died of suicide in 2010. The university is among 12 participating post-secondary institutions in Ontario that are working together to facilitate workshops, presentations, evaluate programs, promote dialogue about mental health, and encourage collaborations among educators and students.
The Principal’s Commission on Mental Health is also continuing its work. The five-member panel has met weekly since September and continues to invite anyone interested in providing input to get in touch with them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The commission has a website, where it is posting summaries of its meetings and links to some of the resources it has been gathering. It will be making recommendations this spring on a strategy to help promote awareness and literacy, reduce stigma, support students in distress and foster an inclusive and supportive environment that maximizes health and wellness and effectively responds to illness.