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.

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Cannabis use is common, especially among adolescents and young adults. There are well-documented risks from cannabis use to both immediate and long-term health. The main risks include cognitive, psychomotor and memory impairments; hallucinations and impaired perception; impaired driving and injuries (including fatalities); mental health problems (including psychosis); dependence; pulmonary/bronchial problems; and reproductive problems.

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Health risks of cannabis use:

There is strong scientific evidence that cannabis use is associated with a variety of health risks. The risks depend on your constitution, which kinds of cannabis products you use and how or how often you use them. Some of the main health risks are:

  • problems with thinking, memory or physical co-ordination
  • impaired perceptions or hallucinations
  • fatal and non-fatal injuries, including those from motor-vehicle accidents, due to impairment
  • mental health problems and cannabis dependence
  • chronic respiratory or lung problems
  • reproductive problems.
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Cannabis—legal or otherwise—is a hot topic. Parents who provide their kids with balanced information about the effects associated with cannabis (often called marijuana) can help them make informed decisions. It’s more important than ever for parents to protect their kids’ health and development by addressing this issue early and often.

That’s why we created this talk kit. We want to help families navigate through a changing cannabis landscape—one that includes new policies like legalization and regulation, as well as new products, like “shatter” and “edible” candies and cookies.

Here, you’ll learn how to set the stage to have an open dialogue with your teen—about any issue, but cannabis in particular. Your teens are likely asking you some tough questions and challenging you on the topic of cannabis. We’ve worked with top experts in health and parenting to help you talk with your teen.

Believe it or not, you are one of the most powerful influences in your child’s life. More than friends. More than TV. More than celebrities.

We know you have questions, and we’re here to help.

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A Transformative Vision

Health and wellbeing promoting universities and colleges 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.

Statement of Adoption

University leaders recognize that promoting health and well-being is essential to achieving our full potential in teaching and learning, research, and engagement.

Evidence demonstrates that people who are well are more productive, are more able to engage in deeper learning, are more likely to be retained, and have a stronger sense of community.

By adopting the Okanagan Charter, we commit to sharing in the Vision, implementing the two Calls to Action for Higher Education institutions, and following the Guiding Principles as the means for translating the Charter into action.

We further agree to participate in National and International university networks to activating the Charter to inform and support each other’s efforts.

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Health promoting universities and colleges1 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.

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