Camosun making student health a priority

College launches first Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy

Julia Woensdregt

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

Steve Mann and Tim Hackett consider Marigold Lands their finest development. (Rendering courtesy Marigold Lands)
Marigold residences grow more townhouses and condos in Central Saanich

50 condos, 14 townhouses up next for project adjacent to Pat Bay Highway

Norman Mogensen sets up strings for his beans in his plot in the Oak Bay community gardens. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay gardener spends decades cultivating, improving daddy’s beans

85-year-old vegan part of the community gardens scene

The Pool at the Esquimalt Rec Centre. (Courtesy of theTownship of Esquimalt/ Facebook)
Esquimalt Rec Centre restarting everyone welcome swim times later this month

The 90-minute sessions will be on select evenings and weekends

Theatre SKAM is offering mobile, pop-up performances to Greater Victoria residents once again this summer. They’ll feature emerging artists Yasmin D’Oshun, Courtney Crawford, Kaelan Bain and Kendra Bidwell (left to right). (Courtesy of Theatre SKAM)
Theatre performances can be ordered to Greater Victoria front yards this summer

Theatre SKAM offering mobile, pop-up performances once again

Diana Durrand and Arlene Nesbitt celebrate the new artist space in 2014. Gage Gallery moves this summer from Oak Bay to Bastion Square in Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Gage Gallery moving to Bastion Square

Vivid Connections, a showcase by Laura Feeleus and Elizabeth Carefoot, opens new venue June 29

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Patrick O’Brien, a 75-year-old fisherman, went missing near Port Angeles Thursday evening. (Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard)
Search for lost fisherman near Victoria suspended, U.S. Coast Guard says

The 75-year-old man was reported missing Thursday evening

Most Read