Tag Archives: students

York Launches Strategy to Advance Campus Mental Health

York's Campus Mental Health Strategy
York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy

Do you know someone who has struggled with their mental health? Perhaps a family member, close friend, colleague or even yourself? Given that 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime, chances are the dialogue around mental health taking place at York, in Canada and across the world directly impacts you or someone you know.

As this conversation grows, the impetus for change falls to institutions such as York to lead the charge to raise awareness around mental health and ensure support is readily available and accessible to all of our community members – students, staff and faculty.

The University has recognized this need and has responded by developing York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy that seeks to address the needs of our campus community. The strategy officially launched this past October 18 at Founders College Assembly Hall. More than a hundred people attended.

National College Health Assessment Findings
National College Health Assessment survey data

Among others, key stakeholder Vice-President Academic & Provost Rhonda Lenton and Mental Health Steering Committee Co-Chairs Lesley Beagrie, Suzanne Killick and Stephanie Francis spoke to the importance of York paving the way for other institutions to prioritize and support the advancement of mentally healthy campuses.

The strategy highlights mental health priorities for three key campus groups: students, staff and faculty, as identified during the community consultations spearheaded by York’s Mental Health Steering Committee. The plan will continue to reflect York’s commitment to health and wellness promotion; facilitation of care and support; and collaboration and discussion. New principles developed as a result of the consultations include:

  • deliver a long-term approach for the management of mental health challenges;
  • outline initiatives to help achieve improved mental health outcomes for members of the University community;
  • identify support aimed at helping individuals becoming more involved in managing their own mental health;
  • advocate for accessible services to be made available to the community, both on and off campus; and
  • focus on partnership with the University community and working together to achieve a mentally healthy campus.

The plan will also focus on four key priorities: leadership; planning and promotion; campus engagement; and service delivery.

Stephanie Francis, Division of Student’s mental health & wellness project lead
Stephanie Francis, Division of Student’s mental health & wellness project lead

Stephanie Francis, Coordinator, Health Education & Promotion, Student Success Centre, and the Division of Student’s mental health & wellness project lead, is encouraged by the gain made so far.

“We have already witnessed signs of progress towards advancing a mentally healthy campus within the Division of Students, and will continue to provide support and resources for students to meet strategic goals. This year, we developed and provided Mental Health training to 1000 Orientation-Week leaders; welcomed more than 600 Grade 12 students from the York Region District School Board to campus for a full day of games and lectures dedicated to educating young people about mental health; and helped conduct more than 50 community consultation sessions with students, faculty and staff to help inform the Strategy.”

Mental health extends beyond our borders here at York. It is prevalent at campuses across the country and the globe. Founder and student ambassadors from Jack.org echoed this sentiment, sharing their personal struggles and encounters with mental health issues inside and outside school communities. Led by Eric Windeler, and created in memory of his late son Jack, Jack.org is Canada’s only national network of young leaders advocating for youth mental health and aims to put an end to mental health stigma.

Jack.org
Jack.org is Canada’s only national network of young leaders advocating for youth mental health.

The investment of community members in York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy was made clear by the attendance, engagement and concerns brought forth during the question and answer period of the launch. Questions posed ranged from how York plans to simplify access to counselling services for students and increase availability of counsellors. Staff and faculty raised the need for clear resources to help them address and respond to student mental health concerns, as well as support when dealing with personal and professional issues.

While York does already offer a number of resources to aid its community members – accessible through the Mental Health & Wellness at York website – the University will also soon be adding specific, actionable recommendations that address day-to-day mental health concerns that arise on campus. Additional short-term goals include: further development of existing supports, identification of resource gaps and a continuation of community roundtable discussions (similar to past consultations) to support an open campus dialogue.

York students, staff and faculty members in attendance
York students, staff and faculty members in attendance

By re-evaluating progress every three years, the University hopes to ensure a progressive movement toward creating and maintaining a mentally healthy campus that empowers our community to thrive.

For more information about York’s Campus Mental Health Strategy and community updates, please visit: yorku.ca/mentalhealth.

York University hosts Supplemental Instruction Retreat Day

York University hosted the fourth Canada Eastern Supplemental Instruction Retreat Day on Feb. 17. Institutions that sent representatives to the retreat were the University of Guelph, home to the Canadian Supplemental Instruction Office; University of Toronto campuses, Scarborough and Mississauga; OCAD University; Mohawk College; and University of Rochester, New York.

The Supplemental Instruction (SI) model is based on peer-facilitated academic support for high-risk courses. The objective is to target these courses and not individual students. Peer-based study-groups are led by trained undergraduate students known as SI Leaders. Developed by the University of Kansas in 1973, SI has now been successfully carried out on a global level and launched in Canada in 1990 across various postsecondary institutions. The retreat was an opportunity to celebrate this initiative and to expand on it.

The event commenced with welcoming remarks from Krista Bianco, Canadian national representative for SI, who provides training for educational institutions. Bianco, who has worked for more than 10 years in the field, maintains that it is an exciting time in Canada for SI as many postsecondary institutions are coming forward to adopt this initiative. “It is a power model,” she said.

Janet Morrison

SI is part of the first-year experience at York University. Janet Morrison, York University’s vice-provost students, said, “SI has been, and will be a priority. It is a solution to fostering student success.” Morrison emphasized the importance of this collaboration as York University partners with SI, which she said attests to its power for both the learner and the SI student leaders. She noted that the SI experience will have long-lasting effects for the peer leaders, which will, in turn, help the students here and beyond. Support systems at York need to reflect institutional demographics, as the University is home to many first-generation university students, noted Morrison.

Mazen Hamadeh

School of Kinesiology and Health Science Professor Mazen Hamadeh spoke about the fundamentals of facilitated learning, which is crucial to the program. He said that Bethune College has integrated the SI model, known as Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS), into its programming since 2010. Hamadeh noted the demand for SI has grown. Initially the program started with three SI leaders, which has since increased to 14 SI leaders. He highlighted that PASS conducts regular scheduled peer leader-facilitated study groups in an informal setting. Attendance is voluntary and students can discuss course material, readings, forecast test material, discover effective study skills and compare notes. “Facilitated learning is the key to the program,” said Hamadeh.

Participants in the retreat were told that peer leaders go through a detailed hiring process and are required to be in good academic standing with the institution. Employment procedure consists of a solo interview, panel interview, role playing and ethics training. In recognition for their efforts, peer leaders are provided with a letter of reference and co-curricular record, and are hired into Work/Study positions to foster development of transferable skills.

The SI program at York University continues to evolve, with a new wave of SI leaders working in collaboration with incoming students to develop lifelong skills while enhancing their first-year experience at York.

By Sunera Ali, student ambassador in the Division of Students — Republished from yFile

Join York’s Random Acts of Kindness Project

Random Acts of Kindness Project logoHave you ever thought about getting involved on campus? There’s a whole lot more to York University than just going to classes and I’d like to tell you about one of my most recent discoveries.

Hi everyone! My name is Vanessa Pichelli and I am thrilled by this opportunity to be a guest blogger on the VPS Blog. About me: I am a second year student in the Administrative Studies program, specializing in Marketing. I’m also the Vice President Operations for New College Council and one of the Media & Communication Ambassadors at SCLD. I have a huge passion for getting involved and serving the community.

During the summer, a close friend informed me about a club he was starting at York and that he thought it would be a perfect fit for me. That club was called The Random Acts of Kindness Project, or RAK for short. When I checked it out in September I learned that the club’s goal is to improve the social culture at York and help to inspire greater student involvement. That totally had my name all over it, so I joined right away!

Picture of club founder and president, Yaakov Green
Club founder and president, Yaakov Green, giving water to a fellow student.

Club founder and president, Yaakov Green, along with his team, planned some great initiatives that I was able to partake in this year. For Halloween we surprised York students in their lectures with thousands of Halloween treats. The energy and excitement in the classrooms we visited was electric and really brought a lot of awareness to our club. We also held a “Kindness Campaign” where club members toured the campus looking for small ways to help fellow students such as giving a water bottle to someone who needed it, holding doors for others, and helping fellow students carry their heavy loads of books. Future events include giving out coffee and hot cocoa to students arriving to York in the morning, study packs to those studying in the library before exams, and hand warmers for students waiting in the cold for the bus. These Random Acts of Kindness go a long way to show how a small group of people doing thoughtful, little acts can make a big difference in the community and help to brighten someone’s day.

RAK now boasts 130 members and counting. I am so delighted to have gotten in on the ground floor and shared in so many amazing and heart-warming experiences so far. If you’d like to become a member, please check us out on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to check out our new video on YouTube!

Otherwise, be sure to explore Student Clubs & Organizations at Student Community & Leadership Development. There are more than 400 different student clubs. You’re sure to find something that interests you and that could completely change your university experience.