Tools for Success: Models for Exemplary Student Mental Health Initiatives at Alberta Post-secondary Institutions

A blue rectangle with the title, "Tools for Success." There is a hexagon in the centre labelled with the words "Mental Health Toolkit." The hexagon is surrounded by 6 decorative icons to represent the six guiding themes of the toolkit.  The rectangle contains a brief description of the toolkit, which reads: "Student Mental Health Initiatives, 11 promising practices, 6 guiding themes, from campuses across Alberta, Fall 2020." The Mount Royal University Logo is on the bottom left corner.


Mental health is an increasing concern for Alberta’s learners. Post-secondary Institutions (PSIs) can increase their capacity to respond to this concern and create learning and living environments that encourage students to flourish. To support these efforts, the Next Steps to Improve Post-secondary Student Mental Health resulted in direct funding to all publicly funded PSIs in Alberta. Through this funding, institutions have been tasked to take a systemic approach to support student mental health across seven dimensions, including components such as overall institution structure, policies, processes, programming, outreach, direct care for students, and crisis management. Evidence and the context of the campus community can inform and support these initiatives.

Navigating the complex array of evidence-informed initiatives and developing strategies that are appropriate for the specific context, resources, and capacity of various campus communities can be challenging. This toolkit was designed to further facilitate knowledge sharing and capacity building among Alberta PSIs to help achieve the outcomes of the Next Steps program.

This toolkit is made possible by funding under the Government of Alberta’s Next Steps to Improve Post-Secondary Student Mental Health.

or explore the toolkit below

Purpose and Objectives

An infographic labelled, "Framework for Post-Secondary Student Mental Health." The infographic depicts the layers of supports required to support a student. Starting with supports that target students with mental health concerns, these supports include crisis management and accessible mental health services. The next layer of supports are those that target students with concerns about coping, which includes self-management competencies and coping skills, as well as community capacity to respond to early indicators of student concern. The top layer of supports target all students and include mental health awareness, support, inclusive campus environment, and institutional structure: organization, planning and policy.

This toolkit was developed by Mount Royal University to understand post-secondary student mental health priority areas within Alberta and identify exemplary mental health and wellness initiatives at Alberta PSIs. This toolkit would not have been possible without the collaboration, support, and engagement from PSIs across Alberta and Healthy Campus Alberta. The information within the case studies is compiled by MRU as described by the participating institutions. Ultimately, the case studies presented are meant to assist Alberta PSIs in the planning and implementation of effective mental health initiatives at their institutions.  

The 11 case studies and the toolkit reflect the unique context, priorities, and demographics of Alberta campuses, and facilitate the implementation of promising practices across the province. Aligned with the seven dimensions of the CACUSS & CMHA Post Secondary Student Mental Health: Guide to a Systemic Approach, the case studies are a resource for a variety of audiences within a post-secondary environment in the planning and implementation of effective initiatives. 

The dimensions within the CACUSS & CMHA Post Secondary Student Mental Health Guide: Guide to a Systemic Approach (2013)


Who the toolkit is intended for:

  • Senior leadership at Alberta PSIs interested in expanding mental health and well-being offerings;
  • Health, Counselling, and Wellness Services at Alberta PSIs involved in the planning of mental health initiatives;
  • Mental health professionals and service providers who work with post-secondary students;
  • Student leaders involved in student government or student organizations.



Purposes of the toolkit:

  • To act as a knowledge mobilization tool to share exemplary mental health and well-being initiatives at Alberta PSIs
  • To represent institutions of various contexts with initiatives across the seven dimensions of a systemic approach to student mental health
  • To support PSIs to develop and implement policies, systems, programs, and initiatives that facilitate mental health promoting organizational environments, mental health promoting communities, mental health care, and system leadership and co-ordination.


Guiding Themes

An integral part of the toolkit was the development of guiding themes. These themes constitute “guiding criteria” to which the promising practices are aligned. To identify such themes, a grey literature scan was conducted and included a search for Canadian toolkits and reports which provided recommendations for best practices for mental health initiatives, several of which focused specifically on post-secondary settings. Four key documents identified were:

  1. Healthy Campus Alberta. (2015). Alberta Post-Secondary Mental Health and Addiction Framework 
  2. Alberta Mental Health Review Committee. (2015). Valuing Mental Health: Letter to Albertans.
  3. Canadian Association of College & University Students Services and Canadian Mental Health Association. (2013). Post Secondary Student Mental Health: Guide to a Systemic Approach.
  4. Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health. (2015). Environmental Scan of Promising Practices and Indicators Relevant to Campus Mental Health.

The cross-referencing of these foundational documents led to the development of six themes for post-secondary mental health promising practices. These themes are as follows:

Institutional leadership
There is “buy-in” and alignment with institutional values from multiple levels of leadership for this initiative. This initiative lends itself to informing and contributing to meaningful health policy development and/or change within the institution.

Equity, diversity, and inclusion
The initiative is developed in consideration of various cultural, social, and socioeconomic groups. It promotes equitable opportunity to be involved; the initiative is used as a means to help reduce stigma and prejudice on campus, among those who may be experiencing additional challenges that negatively affect their mental health.

Mobilizing local community
There is an effort to engage students, staff, faculty members, and all stakeholders at various developmental stages in this initiative.

Shared responsibility and collaboration
The mental health initiative fosters sustained responsibility and connections between stakeholders.

The initiative accommodates the needs of diverse groups. This may include initiatives that are customizable at varying levels.

Evidence-informed practice
The mental health initiative is created in consideration of evidence such as needs assessments, research, and student feedback.

Toolkit Contents

Click on an image below to open a section of the toolkit.