The ACMHI model includes a few key definitions that are described in various sections of the Toolkit and repeated here for convenience:

Maturity Model

A maturity model is a scorecard that helps organizations understand their own capability and capacity to create and influence desired change. It supports Self-Review and Collaborative Conversations.

The ACMHI Toolkit includes a Mentally Healthy Campus Maturity Model. It has 3 levels of use:

  • Basic
  • Detailed
  • Advanced

Mentally Healthy Campus

A mentally healthy campus community is one where all of its elements – people, environments and collective culture work together to promote the mental well-being of all of its members, the inclusiveness of its culture and the sustainability of the physical environment.

A mentally healthy campus community is a mentally healthy place as described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is one that:

“continuously creates and improves both its physical and social environments, helping people to support one another in aspects of daily life and to develop to their fullest potential. Healthy places are those designed and built to improve the quality of life for all people who live, work, worship, learn, and play within their borders — where every person is free to make choices amid a variety of healthy, available, accessible, and affordable options.”

A mentally healthy campus is imbedded in a larger community. A mentally healthy campus community both contributes to, and benefits from mentally healthy communities and regions in which it is located.

In the ACMHI model, a mentally healthy campus has 4 clusters or quadrants of elements:

  • Persons as individuals (and services directed at individuals);
  • Groups (social environment), Built and Natural Environment (and services directed at these elements);
  • Organizations;
  • Inter-organization and Inter-professional working relationships, collaborations.

The campus community is nested within a community context, with the resulting inter-relationships.

The Okanagan Charter defined Health promoting universities and colleges as those that “transform the health and sustainability of our current and future societies, strengthen communities and contribute to the well-being of people, places and the planet. Health promoting universities and colleges infuse health into everyday operations, business practices and academic mandates. By doing so, health promoting universities and colleges enhance the success of our institutions; create campus cultures of compassion, well-being, equity and social justice; improve the health of the people who live, learn, work, play and love on our campuses; and strengthen the ecological, social and economic sustainability of our communities and wider society.”

(The 2015 International Conference produced the Okanagan Charter, setting out a set of interdependent strategies.)

Mental wellness

The ACMHI model uses the term ‘wellness’ to make sure it is not confused with mental illness and conditions.  Understanding Mental Wellness and Life Assets describe multiple aspects of mental wellness, such as it being a practice as well as a state, and the dual continua model of mental wellness and mental illness.

When considering mental wellness as a state, the ACMHI model uses the Public Health Agency of Canada definition of positive mental health as:

“the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity” .

“Culture, equity, social justice, interconnections” all apply to the characteristics of the collective. The collective can be a small group, people in a particular program or department, or the whole campus or whole community. Culture and other characteristics of the collective is influenced by individual attitudes and behaviours, but also by history, larger trends, as well as the physical, policy and digital environments.

First Nations in Canada have recognized the importance of purpose, hope, belonging and meaning in understanding mental wellness.  The First Nations Mental Health Continuum Framework 2015 describes mental wellness as:

Mental wellness is a balance of the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional. This balance is enriched as individuals have: purpose in their daily lives whether it is through education, employment, care giving activities, or cultural ways of being and doing; hope for their future and those of their families that is grounded in a sense of identity, unique indigenous values, and having a belief in spirit; a sense of belonging and connectedness within their families, to community, and to culture; and finally a sense of meaning and an understanding of how their lives and those of their families and communities are part of creation and a rich history.”

When considering mental wellness as a practice or process, the ACMHI model recognizes growth oriented resilience as not only the competencies to ‘bounce back’, but as learning from experience to be able to reliably exercise those competencies under different levels of stress. In this case, the competencies move to a level where they can be considered life assets.  Such life assets are critical to career success as they underpin a person’s ability to work well in teams, cope productively with ambiguity, and tackle increasingly complex problems.