Ushering in an era of improved mental health on campuses across the country

With each September comes the beginning of a fresh academic year — and this fall, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is ushering in an era of improved mental health on campuses across the country.

In collaboration with the standards development organization CSA Group, the MHCC is championing the creation of a standard for psychological health and safety for post-secondary students.

“We’re tremendously excited that after nearly a year of hearing directly from students, their loved ones, health-care providers, institutions, and researchers we have a draft of Canada’s first post-secondary student standard,” enthused Ed Mantler, MHCC vice-president of programs and priorities.

The document, created by the CSA Group technical committee, was informed by the input of 2,500 online survey respondents and more than 70 community dialogues from coast to coast to coast. As part of the accredited standards development process, the draft is now available for public review.

Louise Bradley, MHCC president and CEO, sees the student standard as a logical extension of the organization’s world-renowned efforts to create more psychologically healthy workplaces.

“It’s a natural evolution,” explained Bradley. “We had a winning formula in the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, and thanks to the vision and generosity of our funding partners, we’re once again able to marry our mental health expertise with the technical acumen of CSA Group. We hope the resulting blueprint will inspire action from every post-secondary institution in the country.”

“If you're deliberate and equitable, a rising tide can lift all boats: that’s the promise the standard makes to students,” said Donovan Taplin, vice-chair of the CSA Group technical committee. “When a student shows up on day one of their academic career, they ought to feel confident that there is a standard of support — of shared responsibility — they can expect from their institution.”

Sandra Koppert, the director of programs and priorities who is leading the project at the MHCC, is tremendously proud of the student-centric development process. “With the technical committee, we have a cross-section of some of the most impressive minds and the most passionate expertise in Canada. They are distilling hundreds of recommendations into a document that will help post-secondary institutions better serve the growing mental wellness needs of their students.”

But the importance of the standard extends beyond its benefits to students, noted technical committee member Verity Turpin, who is assistant vice-provost of student affairs at Dalhousie University. “The standard also has great operational and strategic value: it will create an evidence-informed best practice baseline for all institutions across the country.”

The draft standard is now posted on the CSA Group public review website, which includes a virtual platform for anyone wishing to comment.