The Mentally Healthy Campus Strategy
Creating a mentally healthy campus requires ongoing change across systems and society, from individual actions and attitudes to collective efforts in community formation and collaboration.
Student leaders are instrumental in that change. You serve as catalysts within communities. You are also leaders for young adults building lifelong foundations for wellness as they develop their independence alongside their education.
Facing a long-term cultural and systems challenge like this can be overwhelming. However, small and focused efforts applied consistently in key areas will have a major impact. These activities foster cohesion, broaden and deepen relationships, and provide a foundation for long-term impacts. This is the principle of the flywheel, which builds momentum and directs the energy that comes from a series of small, coordinated, and regular inputs.
To build and sustain the flywheel for mentally healthy campuses, student leaders must focus their efforts and link to a larger effort with their peers at other schools and collaborators within their communities. Working together through ASEC, student leaders also influence collective efforts within the province, both through government and through the community of practice for mental health.
This strategy document outlines areas where student leadership and ASEC bring their strengths to creating mentally healthy college campuses in Alberta. It shows where to play (what areas to prioritize) and how to win (principles and actions to succeed). Student Leaders and ASEC executive will need to integrate this direction with their overall strategic planning and priorities.
What is a mentally healthy campus?
A mentally healthy campus is a community where all of its people, environments and collective culture interact in ways that work together to promote the mental well-being of all its members, the inclusiveness of its culture and the sustainability of the physical environment. A mentally healthy campus consistently fosters mental wellness for each person who is a part of it. This includes students, faculty, and staff, and the broader community of which the campus is a part.
A mentally healthy campus emerges from:
- conscious collective relationships and collaboration,
- a focus on wellness as a holistic outcome,
- connecting to the whole system rather than simply treating individuals,
- connecting the individual lived experience to the larger context and system.
While most initiatives focus on students as the recipients of programs and services, the holistic view of a mentally healthy campus recognizes that each of us is a contributor and a recipient. Every person is involved in supporting others and in receiving support. This includes the administration, faculty, staff, health care providers, students, student leaders, and the broader community.
The most effective efforts come by recognizing this dual nature of contribution through co-creation, and then receiving (through direct intervention and the overall wellness of the community). This potential for mutual investment and benefit exists for all people and institutions within the system.
This holistic, or whole system view also recognizes the contribution and beneficiary relationship between people, the social and physical environments, as well as the policy environment. In addition, the campus is recognized as contributing to, and benefiting from relationships with the larger communities in which it is nested.
Thus, in a holistic strategy, programs and services will focus on the contributions and needs of individual populations or cohorts while recognizing the larger context and system.
For more perspective on mentally healthy campuses and mental wellness, you can read up on our background resources.