Green folder to facilitate mental health referrals

New initiative will inform professors, TAs on how to identify and assist students in distress

Identifying and supporting students with mental health issues could become easier for professors and staff thanks to a new initiative on campus.

All professors and TAs received a Green Folder this week, a four-sided document that contains information on when and how to intervene with students in need, as well as a list of resources.

The main situations outlined by the document include disordered eating, assault and or harassment, marked changes in mood or behaviour, difficulty in communicating and distortions of reality and learning and academic challenges.

The folder advises on how to approach students who exhibit these signs and how to respond if they refuse referral.

“We worked with Health, Counselling and Disability Services [HCDS] and they really were responsible for most of the content,” Ann Tierney, vice-provost and dean of Student Affairs, said, adding that the AMS and the Peer Support Centre were also consulted.

Tierney said the colour green was chosen because it has previously been associated with mental health awareness and because it stands out. Last year, Queen’s Wears Green, an initiative of the Commerce Society, sold green t-shirts to raise funds for mental health groups and awareness.

The folder also lists situations requiring immediate referral or reporting, such as references to suicide, threats or disruptive behaviour and drug or alcohol misuse.

At Queen’s, the information in the folder is more of a guide or suggestion than an official protocol, Tierney noted.

She added that the folder primarily addresses recognizing mental illness and referrals to resources like HCDS, and doesn’t advise how to deal with students after the referral occurs or how to approach students with an ongoing mental illness.

The folder was inspired by the “Orange Folder” at McMaster University.

Debbie Nifakis, clinical director of counselling at McMaster’s Student Wellness Centre, said the folder was first introduced eight years ago and is currently in its fourth edition.

McMaster’s orange folder is distributed to faculty, staff and student leaders. Nifakis, who sat on the original committee that was responsible for the folder, said it’s been an effective initiative and improved people’s awareness of mental health resources.

“At the very beginning, we would go around talking about it and people would go ‘what are you talking about?’ but now when we talk about the orange folder, everyone knows about it,” she said.


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