AU’s mental health strategy: bringing aspirations to life
Hello AU! I am the university’s mental health coordinator. My role is to facilitate the development and implementation of a mental health strategy that will help us to better support the mental health needs of our remarkable and diverse population of students.
A bit about me: I’m 38. A graduate of AU’s wonderful Master of Counselling program. Proud single mom of a vibrant 11 year old girl. Traveled to Peru in recent history. Obsessed with all things social science. Favourite shape is the hexagon.
We find ourselves at a new beginning. Fall is now in full swing, and some of you will already be feeling the pressure. I am writing to tell you a bit about the work we’re doing on the mental health strategy and to offer you some warm thoughts for the fall. If you find yourself struggling on the road ahead, you can feel assured that some mental health resources will soon be in place to support you in achieving your learning goals and your highest potential.
A Little Backstory
I was hired on a contract that, we hope, will span a few years. In keeping with the recommendations of Canada’s Mental Health Strategy, which was published in 2012, the provincial government has provided significant support to all 26 post-secondary institutions in the province to enhance services, policies, and procedures, and to transform campus cultures into warm, welcoming, inclusive spaces that support the wellbeing of all.
Accordingly, AU has received a grant, the purpose of which is to figure out how we can become more effective in meeting the mental health needs of our students. We’re exploring such questions such as: “What do our students need from AU to support their wellbeing?” “How can we create the conditions for our students to flourish in their journey of learning?” “How are our current resources and services meeting or not meeting the needs of our students?”
AU’s Mental Health Strategy
We’ve already had many conversations with diverse stakeholders about these issues, but we would like to hear more from our students. Students are more challenging to connect with, so we invite those of you reading this to reach out and tell us a bit about your needs.
We’ve adopted a slogan to capture our intentions: Bringing Aspirations to Life. We intend this as a statement about bringing our learners’ aspirations for themselves, their families, and their communities into their actual, lived experience.
Here are some things you can expect to hear more about in the near future:
We have developed a draft of a mental health strategy and hope to make this public in the near future, following review by an advisory committee that we are in the process of forming.
A Mental Health and Wellness website, offering information and resources related to mental health services and topics, is planned for later this fall.
Plans are being finalized for a 24/7 mental health support line where students can access confidential counselling, community referrals, and online resources. You can expect to hear more about this in a subsequent post.
We are also working on a wellness app called My Viva Plan that uses a personalized coaching model to help users set and track their wellness goals and work toward positive change in various aspects of their lives. The app was developed in response to Canadian data concerning post-secondary student health. The treatment platform is covered under ‘dietician services’ by most major insurance providers. Stay tuned for more on this as well!
Also in the works is development of online staff training and resources to better equip our frontline teams with the knowledge and skills necessary to help support student success.
Invitation to connect
We at AU – me, our dedicated team at Learner Support Services, the executive team, your faculty, the administrative staff, and of course, students – we all want this to be a sustainable effort. We want to create something inspiring! A whole-campus strategy for a school that has no campus! We hope that other institutions can look to us, eventually, when they’re wondering how to attend to the needs of their diverse students registered for online courses and say, “what did AU do?”
Whatever needs to be done, we’ll need your help. Please email if you have any questions, comments, or wish to engage with us as we continue to develop and implement our mental health strategy. We value your input deeply and look forward to your feedback as our work together evolves!
Faye is currently a registered provisional psychologist in Alberta. Prior to returning to AU as a staff member, she worked in public and private counselling agencies that provided psychoeducational and family counselling services. Faye is as much a sociologist at heart as a psychologist, in the sense that she enjoys working towards change in larger systems as much as she enjoys working with individuals and families toward their preferred futures.