The Summit 2014 held in Vancouver hosted by Health Minds Healthy Campus in conjunction with CMHA - BC division was a great success.
Conversations were dynamic and colourful with the perspectives of students, faculty, professionals, researchers, government and community organizations joining together to tackle issues facing mental health support on post-secondary campuses. A comment that resonated throughout the summit was that things are shifting around mental health. Shifts with students taking a big role in creating change and a shift in how mental health is being responded to on campuses across Canada, from advocacy groups to policy.
Students were a critical piece of the puzzle, with student groups sharing their efforts to make positive changes for students at their institutions. From the "Hi F.I.V.E." advocacy campaigns to the Dinner Basket Conversation, each group is finding ways to inspire conversations and awareness of mental health and addiction issues faced by students. One presenter used the analogy of diagnosing a sick frog. Studying the frog's sickness and aliments wont always illuminate the bigger issues of the ecosystem. The diverse approaches brought to life in the Summit served as inspiration during the more interactive times of the Summit.
A few take away messages are shared below to help inspire student conversations at Student Associations here in Alberta. These aren't meant to capture the entirety of the Summit, but to help inspire ideas and innovation by learning about the unique ways students are taking the lead and driving change.
1. Student Voices: A Learning Environment Project - Students took the lead on researching what make learning spaces. By interviewing students across campus and asking what made a good classroom experience, from faculty to class environmental attributes. Their findings of healthy learning environments has now begun to shape the creation of policy to make lasting changes that improve the learning experience for all students.
2. Promoting Student Engagement: Cohort Model - This student piloted project wanted to build a greater sense of engagement and connection amongst students completing their undergraduate degrees. Fourth year students were recruited to take on a mentorship role with a small group of first year students. As their study roles out, they have seen more student engagement, a stronger culture of inclusion, and improved well-being as students connect with others who become friends and confidants.
3. Dinner Baskets! - A group at Selkirk College, in a smaller southern BC community, have been experimenting on ways of building communities and healthy conversations around one thing we all have in common: Dinner Time! Part of the event is having students unite to create a meal together with ingredients provided in a basket for them, which includes a conversation guide. These groups work together to make a meal, while discussing issues on substance use and mental health in a safe and compassionate environment. People regularly meet up for fun, food, sharing, and supporting one another, and this group hones in on this intricacy enjoyable nights while combining intentional common goals and shared experiences to help students work through issues together.
3. Hi F.IV.E. Movement for Mental Health - This student-led advocacy group has grown from the dedication of students. They are seeking to create friendships on campus by actively starting conversation and valuing everyone’s contributions to help erase stigma. With students leading the way, they are starting outreaches, cross-campus partnerships and various campaigns. the Hi-F.I.V.E Movement hopes to create a campus-wide safe space where students feel free to disclose mental health issues and history without the fear of shame or judgement from peers, faculty and staff.