Mentally Healthy Campus Maturity Model Background

Mentally Healthy Campus Maturity Model Background

Following are descriptions of actions and services you might include in your Strategy – following the Maturity Model as a guide to having a balanced strategy.  The actions and services are described as they fit in each of the four quadrants.

You may find it useful to refer to the Framing and Background document What is a mentally healthy campus? and to Working from Outcomes to develop Strategy.

Upper Left Quadrant

(Individual Mental Wellness, Illness)

You may find it useful to refer to the Framing and Background documents attached to Framing mental wellness and life assets, stigma, mental illness, addictions and mental health issues within a Mentally Healthy Campus approach.

This quadrant focuses on services and activities aimed at influencing individual people (whether students, faculty, staff on campus, or even suppliers and visitors).

This quadrant is probably the one you think of when wanting to improve mental health and reduce stigma. A wide variety of services and activities can be aimed at providing professional services, or at influencing or changing people’s behaviour, beliefs and attitudes. These services and activities can fall into three types, depending on your particular focus.

  • Illness / Issues. The focus is on addressing or avoiding mental illness, addictions or mental issues, including reducing stress. For example, these can range from stress relief, such as puppy days or colouring corners, to peer support programs or peer counseling programs. They can include training like Mental Health First Aid, which helps people understand mental health issues and what to do if they find someone who is having difficulties. Other services and activities might include information sheets or brochures and bathroom posters describing counseling services that are available and where to access them. They can be aimed at different mental health issues like suicide prevention, addictions awareness sessions, and film and conversation sessions about racism and other types of marginalization.
  • Wraparound / Related. The focus here is on supporting students who may be challenged by situations that are not directly mental health or mental issue related but contribute to the student’s mental well-being or stress. These are called wraparound factors, contributing factors or sometimes enabling factors). These supports include food banks and nutrition information, legal advice clinics, financial literacy, parenting skills and healthy relationships.
  • Mental Wellness and Life Assets. These are actions that are aimed at) helping the individual grow their mental wellness and life assets. This approach takes a completely different view than the conventional approach of starting with the idea that we are preventing illness or disorders. Rather, this approach starts with the idea that mental well-being means building capabilities or assets that are really skills for engaging with any kind of challenge throughout life.
  • The activities used for short-term coping and stress management are also ones that help you build your mental wellness skills, if combined with mindfulness, reflection and action learning. Learning goes beyond coping in the moment, or simply doing activities without understanding why they are important or relevant to you. In school we learn by receiving information from experts or by participating in experiential activities. This is learning from experience. To learn from experience, we must pay attention to the actions we take as a kind of experiment – worth watching for the results the actions produce in different situations.  Understanding Mental Wellness and Life Assets has a longer description of the steps involved in learning from our experience to build mental wellness.
  • Remember that mental health does not mean no illness. The Keyes model helps to make it clear that people can grow their mental wellness and life assets whether or not they have a mental illness, addiction or mental issue.

You might want to also think about WHERE these services are located or offered. Services for individuals on Satellite campuses, or Distance learning students are sometimes forgotten.

There may be other services or activities you think of that do not fit neatly into one of these three categories. Create a separate column on your worksheet to put them in for now.

Lower Left Quadrant

(Collective Mental Wellness, Safety and Inclusion)

The types of services and activities that fit in this quadrant include both social and physical strategies, as well as strategies that influence the digital or policy environments. Physical strategies include advocating for gender-neutral bathrooms or better lighting in parking lots, or creating a dedicated Student Support Centre for student-led activities or another type of facility. They may also involve collective actions like a Community Conversation on Mental Health in an area of a campus where many students walk, or weekly Wellness Wednesdays held in high traffic areas. While specific activities within these may be focused on the individual (and thus included in the Upper Left Quadrant), the key is that groups engage together so there is some shared experience.

Think about the reason these might be helpful. For example, the continued and regular exposure to multiple activities associated with such initiatives work over time to create more open conversation, and normalize conversations about mental health issues and what people can do to support their own mental wellness. The activities may provide ways to help students to recognize signs of distress in themselves or others, and how to be a good friend when someone they know seems to be having trouble coping.

Upper Right Quadrant (Organization)

The Organization Quadrant relates to your organization’s (in this case, your SA’s) capabilities to plan and deliver services or activities related to your strategy for improving mental wellness or addressing mental health issues. These include a range of functions.  Consider the following questions.

  • How are you organized to plan and implement your mental health strategy? (This means your designated leadership and accountability for the mental health strategy.)
  • What information do you gather or access to help you make decisions about what to do and how you are doing?  This might include your evaluation and learning data.  It could also include information from another department, such as the proportion of prescriptions in your health insurance package for mental health issues, or the number of students who drop out of school.  (This information is your Knowledge for Decision Making.)
  • What is your balance of services that continue over time with some improvement, compared to new actions or services that you are testing? (What is your Improvement and Innovation Agenda?)
  • How do you act as an employer?  Do you treat your employees in ways that help them improve their mental health and reduce stigma?  Do you do your business in ways most aligned with a mentally healthy campus?  (In other words, are Policies and Functions aligned with mental health?)
  • Are your Resources and Advocacy efforts related to mental wellness and mental health issues?

Describe your student association’s approaches to organizing for your mental health strategy using these headings as a guide. Add others that you feel are important but are not included in the list.

Lower Right Quadrant

(Relationships, Ecosystem – Inter-professional and Inter-organizational)

This quadrant relates to the range of working partnerships that are actively engaged in the improvement of student mental health and reduced stigma on post secondary campuses.  Your actions may apply to one of the following:

  • Student leader led initiatives – What degree of engagement do student leaders have in your campus strategy?  Do they have a voice in the way actions are planned and evaluated, but are only one in a group of professionals and administrators?  Are student leaders actually engaged in leading the planning and implementation of initiatives or is that really done by staff?  You may find it useful to review the Framing and Background Document Why are student leader led initiatives a critical part of a comprehensive mental health strategy? as you consider why this might be important.
  • Local campus and community relationships – Who are all the professionals and organizations you work with on shared actions, across your institution and with your local community?  Are these casual connections or actual working relationships.  Do you work at making sure you have a common vision and are looking for ways to deepen your relationship so you can create a flywheel effect where momentum increases as you find ways to magnify each others actions?
  • Collective actions
    • Across multiple campuses (for example, ASEC) – How are you supporting, learning from, and engaging with other members of ASEC to improve the whole group?  This includes making sure the collective evaluation survey is completed by enough of your students so that the final ACMHI report can show impact on different campuses as well as the whole ASEC group.
    • Provincial – How will you support the provincial actions that engage campuses and people beyond ASEC members? For example, will you participate actively in the Healthy Campus Alberta Community of Practice and if so, how?
  • Policy environments
    • Are the policy environments, whether at the institutions or in the provincial and federal ministries, aligned with the aim of improving student mental health and reduced stigma?  Understanding this helps shape your advocacy agenda.
    • Recognizing the nature of the policy environments can be important for a number of reasons. For example, you may be trying to push the envelope significantly farther than the status quo (in other words, your initiative is a significant innovation or change from the status quo).  If the policy environment is not yet aligned with your overall approach, then it will be more of an uphill battle for you. An example would be if you are prioritizing mental wellness but the policy environments focus on treatment of specific mental illness. As well, policies at the institution level sometimes prevent specific activities, like puppy days.
    • The macro-policy environment can be important. For example, if what you want to achieve would be facilitated if the administration were motivated to monitor student health outcomes on a long-term basis, but Advanced Education policy does not require this as part of an institution’s regular reporting, it will be more challenging to assure that what you are trying to achieve will be sustainable without your continued effort.
    • The policy dimension may not be one that is on your radar initially. However, as you gain experience and maturity with your strategy, it may be important to consider how this dimension influences your action. If the policy environment is not aligned, this will signal the need for advocacy over taking direct action. You will have to recognize that there will not be a supportive environment and you will have to work harder to establish and keep something going

What’s the degree of collaboration?

You may also want to go the next step and consider what your degree of collaboration is with your local campus and community relationships. The amount of collaboration can vary from being pleasant to one another and advising each other of special events, to meeting regularly to share information on upcoming events and identify ways that you can reinforce each other’s efforts. (An example is to create complementary events before and after a particular event or activity, so momentum is developed and maintained rather than it being simply a one shot event.) After working together for some time, you may find it possible to create a collective strategic plan for mental wellness and reducing stigma, as well as agree on shared measures of progress.

Why is this Lower Right Quadrant particularly important?

It takes the work of many people and organizations to create a mentally healthy campus. However, to be successful, a change in culture is required. This occurs only if change efforts are coming from many directions and many levels at the same time. So, your overall goal of improved student mental health will only be achieved if everyone works in ways that reinforce each other’s actions.

As well, this quadrant is important for sustainability. When one player has a crisis or has fewer resources for a time (this could be time, funds or attention), then others can keep the momentum going. Individual services and individual projects require all your energy. If you can help to catalyze momentum among many players, and that grows in a developmental spiral, the flywheel effect starts to create its own energy and requires fewer of your resources. Individual one-off activities may serve some individuals, but they will not be sustainable once the funding or effort stops. (If you want to read about the developmental spiral, see the Framing and Background brief, Why work on inter-organizational relationships? Why is it important to create momentum and the flywheel effect when a desired outcome requires a fundamental culture change?)

For example, one of the key characteristics of the ACMHI initiative was that it involved action at the local campus level AND action at the collective ASEC level. Having the collective sessions through ASEC helped to get the original funding, and individual campuses benefited from the opportunity to share information and insight and to build on what each other had learned. Small colleges might have created strategies for a particular group of students, such as aboriginal or international students, and their resources then used by other campuses. Large colleges might have had opportunities to take on more comprehensive strategies because they had more staff support.

If you have a collective inter-campus part of your strategy, include the kinds of actions you have been doing.  For example, ACMHI created an ASEC Mental Health Committee, and ASEC’s collective advocacy activities were instrumental in getting the original funding and extending it.  A collective action across many post secondary institutions and associations, such as the Healthy Campus Alberta Community of Practice, also helps, and is assisted by all the individual members who are actively engaged.