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SAIT enhances commitment to student mental health

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New strategy focuses on learner success through positive mental well-being

SAIT is making student mental health an institutional priority with the release of a new strategy aimed at creating a community of support on campus.

“Growing research indicates mental health is an increasing concern for post-secondary students,” says Brad Donaldson, Vice President, Academic. “Maintaining positive mental health and well-being is critical to their success — both inside and outside the classroom — and just as critical when they join the world of work.”

At the heart of the new strategy is a commitment to broadening mental health literacy across the institution and incorporating mental well-being considerations into programs and policies.

“Mental health is an educational issue,” says Lois Hayward, Supervisor, Student Development and Counselling, Learner and Academic Services. “In an academic institution focused on student success, a student’s mind, the health of their brain, matters.”

The foundation of the new strategy reinforces a further commitment to increase resilience and respond to the evolving needs of SAIT’s diverse student population.

A community of support

Whether they come to SAIT right after high school or 20 years after a previous post-secondary experience, students face change and challenges — and both create stress, says Jess Beddow, Vice-President Student Life, SAIT Students’ Association.

“Self-awareness, mental health and personal well-being can be easy to neglect when you’re a student and harder to access in times of difficultly and stress,” she says.

The range of action items in the new strategy is a good fit for the student community at SAIT, according to Beddow.

“The focus on incorporating positive mental health practices in everyday life and making sure students have the necessary life skills to flourish at school and in the workplace really resonates with me.”

“Plus, providing students with a diverse collection of resources and strategies to empower them to become their own leaders in positive mental health is important.”

Along those lines, Beddow says students are a big part of helping foster a supportive campus community and increase mental health literacy.

“Students can help break down stigmas by demonstrating active support for each other, participating in events and other opportunities to get involved on campus, and by reaching out for help and encouraging others to do the same, when needed.

“It’s vital to our community that all students feel supported on campus and comfortable to access the mental health and well-being resources available.”

Partners in student success

Aligned with SAIT’s Strategic and Education Plan, the Student Mental Health Strategy will inform and track the progress of a number of campus-wide mental health and well-being initiatives for the next two years. A task team has been formed with student and employee representation to facilitate the implementation of the strategy.

“The systemic approach we’re taking with this strategy means we’re all committed to enhancing our understanding of good mental health and fostering a climate for learning that empowers our students to thrive,” says Donaldson.

“Every member of our SAIT community is a partner in this strategy.”

Thrive at SAIT

Your mind matters. Having a healthy mind is a major factor in your success as a student, in your experience at SAIT, in the workplace and in life.

There’s no magic formula for achieving a healthy mind or ideal health and wellness — it’s different for everyone. But there are ways every student can thrive at SAIT.

SAIT’s Student Mental Health Strategy: Overview

In February 2017, SAIT formed a task force to develop an institutional Student Mental Health Strategy.

With input from students, faculty, staff and leadership, the task force outlined an action plan drawing on the following themes: inclusion, community, resilience, prevention and flexibility.

Priority goals:

  • incorporate mental health into policies, procedures and program structures
  • foster a supportive and inclusive campus
  • increase resilience and mental health literacy
  • enhance services to support student mental health and well-being
  • respond to students in distress.

Highlights:

  • integrate improved flexibility into our program structures
  • celebrate the diversity our community
  • ensure students have timely access to appropriate services
  • integrate universal design principles into our physical spaces and curriculum
  • promote personal and academic resiliency throughout the entire student experience
  • train employees in the early identification and referral of students at risk
  • foster partnerships with provincial service providers and community organizations for improved access to services.

Acknowledgement

SAIT’s Student Mental Health Strategy could not have been developed without the considerable research and collaboration efforts of our Mental Health Strategy Task Force.


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