Shared Perspectives publication summarizes progress in Canadian students’ mental health

OISE Open House

Report details provincial efforts to better mental health services for students in four provinces

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Journal file photo

On August 1, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations released Shared Perspectives, a report that discusses recent advancements in student mental health services across the country. 

With input and information from student alliances from Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the joint report includes sections relating province-specific efforts in providing better mental health services. The publication is largely a summary of each province’s mental health work over the past few years, alongside conclusions communicating each student group’s outlook for the future. 

In the report, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) described the lack of resources available to students on university campuses and Ontario communities in the past, highlighting the insufficient mental health services as a “gap in healthcare.” 

As a response, in 2011 the provincial government created a 10-year strategic plan to address this gap in healthcare for students. This plan, entitled the Open Minds Strategy, proposed five primary goals: promoting mental health; ensuring early identification of symptoms; an expansion of housing, employment and diversion; providing proper care; and increasing funding to facilitate high quality service. 

The plan allocated $93 million in funding in the first year of its implementation and saw an increase of 770 mental health workers in schools, communities and courts within this time period. 

In 2012, the Moving on Mental Health plan was introduced and integrated with the Open Minds Strategy. This resulted in the government investing over $65 million in various mental health initiatives from 2014 to 2015. 

The Mental Health Innovation Fund (MHIF) was also created in 2012. The fund was established to “provide provincial support for the creation of innovative projects designed to improve on-campus mental healthcare delivery,” according to the report. 

The MHIF has supported 32 projects since its creation, all of which aim to augment the quality and access of services on post-secondary campuses. 

The publication also highlighted the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (CICMH) as an important project. With its goal of bettering student mental health in the post-secondary environment, the CICMH is governed by a committee that includes individuals from the Canadian Mental Health Association, Colleges Ontario, the College Student Alliance and OUSA. 

According to the report, the CICMH plans to evaluate current mental health projects on campuses in order to replicate or improve them and host a conference discussing campus mental health innovation. 

The CICMH will also endeavour to better the knowledge and skills of frontline staff and student leaders who would be in direct contact with these services. On top of this, they plan to gather more student feedback regarding the services.

AMS Commissioner of Social Issues Ramna Safeer, ArtSci '18, spoke to The Journal about her thoughts on the report. 

“A major objective of the publication is to establish and to create a certain level of accountability in the work that’s already happened,” she said. “There are publications that have done that before, but there hasn’t been one that takes that student perspective.” 

“One thing that we can always be thinking about is that mental health is not an issue that occurs in a linear way – it’s impacted by all the different identities that occur,” she added.  

Safeer also identified the importance of youth mental health efforts on campuses and across the province. 

“We can often forget that a lot of the work that’s being done is happening at the youth level and happening at the university level,” Safeer said. “And this is a really great way of marking the work that’s happened, but also creating a sense of accountability.” 

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