Camosun making student health a priority

College launches first Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy

Julia Woensdregt

With the launch of a new five-year strategy, Camosun College counsellor Chris Balmer is hoping the students, staff and faculty will better embrace a responsibility for the general mental health and well-being of anyone on campus.

The new Student Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy is a first for Camosun and was released last week with a ceremony in the Young building of the Lansdowne campus. Counselling and supportive services aren’t new at Camosun, but the ideas within the five-year action plan are, said Balmer, the lead on the strategy.

“We are seeing more students at Camosun with mental health issues that are more frequent, complex and severe, and like most colleges and universities, our student services are strained and overextended,” Balmer said. “The idea of a five-year plan is that once we have identified the actions that need to be taken, we’ll need time to collaborate with the stakeholders at the college to make it happen.”

The goal is to start over again in five years with a new strategy, built on the success of this one. Health statistics show high levels of student distress in Canadian colleges and universities, creating a demand for the strategy.

“We’re not just expanding services, per se, such as our services for mental health,” Balmer said, “the expansion is in the area of ideas, being able to have the other schools within the college incorporate awareness and responsibility for mental health and well-being.”

Julia Woensdregt graduated as an athletic therapist from Camosun in 2014. She spoke during the launch as a reminder of the stigmas still attached to mental health.

“I don’t know if I was ‘in need’ of mental health support but the college does a good job of making everyone aware of the support, and I used the counselling services available to me about three or four times in my last years at school,” Woensdregt said. “I think of it as an annual checkup, it makes sense.”

One of the strategies Balmer is working on is a big-picture look at each semester’s deadlines, when students hit a bottleneck of exams, tests and assignments all due at once.

“We will take a close, hard look at how [instructors] schedule assignments and exams, and how the system inadvertently adds stress when we’re asking students to put their best foot forward academically,” Balmer said.

“What we’re realizing is universities and colleges are so regimented we’ve built in barriers by insisting these things all happen in the same time frame, so I’m hoping to build in more flexibility regarding deadlines so we don’t build in systemic stress in the planning.”

It means systematically meeting with Camosun’s curriculum committee that approve all curriculum packages, and asking them to use a mental health lens during planning.

Those discussions are just starting now.

Another example is the expansion of in-class activities such as short visualization or relaxation exercises, and informational sessions about ensuring a healthy lifestyle throughout the student year by getting the right sleep, nutrition, exercise and support when needed.

“There are some instructors already using mindfulness meditation exercises, but overall it will be new to have the activities in class,” Balmer said.

The long-term goals are to enhance student well-being at Camosun through mental health literacy, promotion and resiliency strategies, creating health promoting policies, responsive mental health services and potentially designing spaces that encourage connection and positive student engagement.

The strategy is online at camosun.ca/about/mental-health/index.html.

 

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

 

Just Posted

Saanich council will consider tax reduction scenarios for 2020 budget

Coun. Rebecca Mersereau however warns of cutting additional funding for capital expenditures

Jurors talk about trial of U.S. man convicted in 1987 murders of Saanich couple

Three jurors offer a window into deliberations during the trial

West Shore RCMP arrest man in stolen vehicle, seize handgun

Vehicle was reported stolen from Duncan on July 18

Victoria Police issue warning after man left dangling from raised Johnson Street Bridge

A man bypassed safety measures and became stranded as the bridge lifted

Premier John Horgan hints at daylight saving changes after record-breaking survey response

B.C.’s largest public consultation saw more than 220,000 residents respond to time change survey

VIDEO: Missing teens named as suspects in three northern B.C. killings

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are wanted in the deaths of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, unknown man

Countdown starts to 2020 BC Summer Games

Two flags unveiled at Maple Ridge city hall.

Memorial bench painted by Vancouver woman to stay in park for now

Park board to look at options for artistic enhancements on commemorative benches

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Weather Network’s anti-meat video ‘doesn’t reflect true story’: cattle ranchers

At issue is the video’s suggestion that cutting back on meat consumption could help save the planet

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Wrestling legend finds his wedding dance groove in B.C.

Professional wrestler Chris Jericho posted on social media that he was in Penticton recently

Coroner investigating after body recovered from Okanagan Lake

Penticton fire department assisted the RCMP with the recovery of a body Saturday

Overdoses overwhelming in B.C. Interior

Part two: Who’s affected by the current opioid crisis

Most Read