Province extends funding for mental health initiatives on campus

College and university students returning to classes across Alberta this fall will continue to have access to mental health services on campus.

The province is investing $3.6 million this year to support much needed mental health programming, education and student outreach efforts at Alberta campuses. Funding has supported the hiring of health practitioners, including counsellors, community outreach social workers and psychologists. The money also supported mental health workshops, stress reduction events and peer support programs.

This investment is part of the government’s commitment to create healthy and supportive campus environments in response to recommendations of the Valuing Mental Health report. Funding allocated in Budget 2016 will extend all post-secondary grants for mental health initiatives through to 2017.

“Transitioning into post-secondary can be a difficult time for students. In response, many of Alberta’s campuses have made excellent progress in developing mental health resources. I’m proud to say our government is listening to students, which is why we’re extending funding to ensure a healthy post-secondary environment that supports our students on their paths to academic success,” says Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Advanced Education.

Critical mental health programs and services provided through the Universities of Lethbridge, Alberta and Calgary and the Alberta Students’ Executive Council (ASEC) have been extended until 2017 to align with the terms of existing grant agreements at MacEwan and Mount Royal Universities.

“This funding has been critical to mental health programs and initiatives at the University of Lethbridge and we’re extremely pleased that it has been extended for another year," says Dr. Mike Mahon, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Lethbridge. "It’s imperative we are able to provide a healthy and supportive campus environment for our students as well as the tools and positive mental health strategies that they can carry with them for a lifetime.”

For the U of L, the funding amounts to $600,000 that will support the addition of counsellors, a physician, dietitian and a psychiatric nurse while additional opportunities now exist for continued workshop and training sessions.

“This funding has enabled us to work with nearly 1,000 campus and community partners to provide mental health resources to students, through more than 800 campaigns and events, 60 new services, and training for hundreds of peer support students. We thank the Government of Alberta for their continued support and look forward to continuing work on student-led mental health initiatives on Alberta’s campuses," adds Sharyn Moore, Board of Directors, Alberta Students’ Executive Council.

Starting this fall, an advisory panel on post-secondary mental health will develop recommendations on how government can support mental health on campuses across Alberta longer-term. The panel will be made up of post-secondary students and professionals, as well as representatives from Alberta Health Services and the Canadian Mental Health Association. This important work will build on best practices at Alberta’s post-secondary institutions, especially those innovative mental health programs and initiatives which emerged in the past few years on university campuses and through the work of ASEC.