Alberta premier meets with AU community to confirm government shore-up.
Premier Rachel Notley visited Athabasca last Friday to announce new funding for mental health supports at Athabasca University — an initiative that will expand and improve mental health programs for AU’s more than 40,000 graduate and undergraduate students. The government will give the university $215,000 a year, for three years, as part of its overall $25.8 million package allocated to the province’s post-secondary sector, announced last June.
Investing in health and well-being
“Strong and accessible post-secondary schools, together with effective and accessible mental health supports, not only help people realize their dreams and build a better life, but they are critical to the economic recovery now underway. That’s why we’re investing in Alberta’s post-secondary schools and investing in the health and well-being of Albertans,” said Notley, addressing the AU community from its main campus.
Vivian Manasc, Chair of the university’s Board of Governors, welcomed the announcement. She noted that both the funding, and the premier’s on-site presence were visible marks of the government’s support for learners.
Board Chair Vivian Manasc and Premier Rachel Notley share a light moment at Friday’s announcement.
“Athabasca University applauds the Government of Alberta for its commitment to student wellness,” said Manasc.
“This new funding for Athabasca University ensures we can continue to support our students to ensure they can succeed in their studies.”
…we’re investing in Alberta’s post-secondary schools and investing in the health and well-being of Albertans. ~ Alberta Premier Rachel Notley
Particular mental health needs of AU students
AU’s two student organizations, representing both graduate and undergraduate learners, have been advocating for increased mental health supports for years. Two years ago, both organizations combined forces to offer Student Lifeline, a 24-hour counseling hotline, to their members.
“Student mental health is a serious and complex issue with implications for the health system, the post-secondary system and, of course, the individuals affected and their families and associates,” said Julian Teterenko, VP External and Student Affairs for the Athabasca University Students Union.
He also noted that AU students, in particular, have unique needs.
“The challenge of maintaining mental wellness may be even greater for AU students, many of whom are older and have employment, family and community obligations in addition to their academic responsibilities. And of course, AU students are widely scattered — all over Alberta and around the world. For them, finding support in a time of need may not be as easy as dropping in to a campus health or counselling centre.”
The university has committed to consulting with students to develop a strategy to address the mental health needs of its widely disbursed student population. Board Chair Manasc stressed it’s vital the university align its supports with the needs of its learners.