Managing student mental health on campus

According to the Calgary Counselling Centre, approximately 46 per cent of Calgarians will be affected by depression this year. For students, staff and faculty at Mount Royal, managing mental health and ensuring an ongoing and open conversation about its impacts and treatment available can be the difference between a successful career as a student or professional.

Mount Royal has partnered with the Calgary Counselling Centre to recognize National Depression Screening Day, featured on Main Street today as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week. Between noon and 2 p.m., Peer Health Educators from Wellness Services provided students with information and activities focusing on managing student mental health.

A new strategy to help

National depression screening day
Mental health nurse coordinator Tammy Parks joined Mount Royal in September 2013

Joining the Peer Health Educators was Mount Royal's new Mental Health Nurse Coordinator, Tammy Parks. Recently joining Mount Royal from a 13-year career in Alberta Health Services, Parks helps students navigate the challenges and difficulties of mental health issues during their time on campus. Additionally, Parks acts as a resource for faculty and staff who have specific concerns about a student's mental health.

"Part of preventative health care is early recognition," says Parks. "There's a lot fo stigma around mental health; if people feel like there is no support for them in the early stages, they often turn to addiction to help them cope.
"It's better for students and the school if we provide the appropriate resources and support early in the process. By showing a genuine interest in helping students - showing students that the entire campus community is there for them - we can help mitigate the factors that can lead to longer term chronic mental illness."

Take the time to learn more

A key component of managing depression is acknowledging its presence in your own life. For today only, the Calgary Counselling Centre has provided access to an anonymous online screening test that points out the presence or absence of depressive symptoms and offers a referral for further evaluation, as necessary.

Developed by the Department of Psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School and Screening for Mental Health Inc, the online test takes about five minutes. It is completely voluntary and can be taken from the privacy of your computer or mobile device. To access the screening tool, click on this link before midnight tonight.

Giving students room to breathe

Also featured at today's event was a preview of The Breathing Room, a new web-based tool for students to be launched on campus as part of the implementation of the President's Task Force on Student Mental Health. Launched in 2012, the task force is focused on finding new ways to de-stigmatize mental illness and create a supportive environment for students.

The Breathing Room is designed to help build students' resilience in terms of mental health by teaching healthy coping strategies. Using modules comprised of videos, true stories and simple tools designed to be relatable for students, The Breathing Room's pilot program has shown lasting results in helping students address the struggles of university life and maintain their own mental health through personal challenges.

For more information on The Breathing Room and the upcoming rollout of the President's Task Force on Student Mental Health, visit the Wellness website in the coming weeks.

Colin Brandt - Oct. 10, 2013