Post-Secondary Student Mental Health: Guide to a Systemic Approach

This guide outlines a framework for addressing student mental health in post-secondary institutions. It is the result of a commitment undertaken by the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) to strengthen student mental health. Another product of that commitment, Mental health and wellbeing in post- secondary education settings: A literature and environmental scan to support planning and action in Canada (MacKean, 2011) outlines the current status of post-secondary student mental health and recommends a more system wide approach that extends the focus from “treating individuals… to promoting positive mental health at a population level…” (page 8). The framework presented in this guide continues this work by outlining a systemic approach that focuses on the creation of campus communities that foster mental well-being and learning.

In this document, the foundational background and concepts that inform the framework are addressed in Purpose, Working Definition of Mental Health and Underlying Premises. This is followed, in Systemic Approach, by an overview of fundamental aspects of a systemic approach and the key components that inform campus strategy development. The Conceptual Framework section illustrates how these components map together to create a systemic approach to strengthening post- secondary student mental health. Each of the key components is then described in more detail with examples to provide a fuller understanding as well as key considerations to guide campus planning. Concrete steps for developing a systemic approach are outlined in the last section, Community Engagement, Planning, and Action. A summary table of the resources that informed the identification of key components is found in Appendix A. Resources to aid self-assessment, planning and action can be found in Appendices B and C.