This excerpt comes from the Fall 2015 newsletter. Wendy Latimer is an Academic Advisor at Brescia University College, Western University in London. Wendy has played a pivotal role in her institution’s mental health assessment and we asked her a few questions about this experience.
Wendy, thanks for speaking with us about this. Tell us a bit about the assessment Brescia has currently undertaken.
Brescia used the CACUSS Framework for Post-Secondary Student Mental Health (http://www.cacuss.ca/current_projects_mental_health_report.htm) as a starting point to conduct a campus wide assessment of Brescia, to try and understand how Brescia could enhance support for students. We recognized that while diagnosed mental illnesses seemed to be rising, but also that overall mental health and wellness needed to be promoted in our community. We wanted to assess what we had in place, we looked at what other institutions were doing, and we made recommendations for action in key areas. The project took 18 months, and our final document, Enhancing Mental Health and Wellness at Brescia, was released in October 2014.
Very exciting. Wendy, what was your role in the process?
The Project team ended up being small: myself from Academic Advising, our Manager of Student Engagement (student services) and one faculty member, as well as one extraordinary student who graduated half way through the process. We wanted the process to be inclusive, so we had a world cafe, we ran key focus groups and we surveyed students (the numbers who engaged are in our report). It wasn’t hard to get buy-in for the project, and everyone recognizes how important this issue is.
What were some of the challenges/ ah ha moments of the assessment?
Since the release of the document, we have had a hard time keeping the momentum. It is difficult to figure out how to get everyone to realize what a priority this is.
Obviously, the report was a journey, and the scope and the mission for this project evolved. The best moments of the project were definitely the world cafe and focus groups where we got to hear from stake-holders and had everyone talking about it. The challenge continues to be resources: who has time to continue to champion this, could we have money to offer more services, as our student body grows and as stigma for accessing these services are reduced.
What have the outcomes been thus far?
There have been some very meaningful changes since the completion of the project, including the ratification of a Jack.org club on our campus, and the inclusion of two students sharing their experiences with mental health during a key orientation event. We also have groups working on a few of the recommendations in the report. We want to update the campus on what has happened since the release of the document soon.
Awesome stuff. Anything else you’d like us to know?
I loved working on the project. To date it is one of my proudest professional accomplishments. But I was very lucky to have supportive co-workers because the work on this project took me away from my own work in advising, and so it was a true team effort to get the report done. I would be happy to talk to anyone who would be interested in trying something like this on their campuses or in their faculties.
Thanks Wendy! This is a fantastic initiative.
Wendy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
-Diana Bumstead, OAAP Steering Committee