The Ontario government has decided to improve mental health support for post-secondary students by renewing support for the Mental Health Innovation Fund (MHIF).
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities announced last week that the government would be renewing their support for the MHIF for the safety and well-being of postsecondary students. The renewed support for the fund will result in the creation of new projects, so that students can have faster and higher-quality support in regards to mental health problems.
This fund was developed in the fall of 2012, and aims to improve the access and quality of mental health services available to post-secondary students across Ontario. The province invests up to $6 million annually for the fund as part of an annual $9 million going to improve mental health services for post-secondary students.
Under the MHIF, Queen’s has initiated the M2 Peer Mentoring Program, which is a research study that has been developing since February 2013. The program aims to match upper-year students as mentors for students who are experiencing a mental health problem or mental health disability.
The M2 Peer Mentoring Program officially began training for mentors in September, and aims to provide students with mental health problems with the tools to succeed in their education, including healthy lifestyle strategies and academic skills.
Dr. Mike Condra, director of Queen’s Health, Counselling and Disability Services spoke about the initial success of the program in regards to student interest.
“Queen’s has such a long and strong tradition of student mentors and students taking leadership roles, when we advertised for peer mentors … we got 150 applications. There’s a lot of interest both in mental health and in these kind of mentoring and leadership roles,” he said.
Another project under the MHIF, unofficially titled “the Accommodation project”, is one that’s looking to develop documentation standards and academic accommodation guidelines for students with mental health disabilities in postsecondary institutions in Ontario.
This project is a joint venture between St. Lawrence College and Queen’s, and will provide documentation standards, training and an information and resource handbook for students with these disabilities.
It’ll be based on the results of a province-wide survey of faculty and staff in postsecondary institutions to develop guides.
Queen’s and St. Lawrence College have received $1 million over three years from the MHIF, which is funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Condra said that the goal is for them to become widespread across Ontario.
“Both of these programs — research projects — are really designed to try to develop something that would be available to all colleges and universities in the province,” he said.
Condra spoke positively about the government’s plan to extend the MHIF.
“I think this is great. We always welcome opportunities to develop new programs, or improve existing programs and do some research on what would be more effective for students with mental health problems — so I’m actually really delighted,” he said.
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