Keeping mental health in mind

Western has increased its efforts to support mental health and increase services available on campus. Many strides have been made by students, faculty and staff to destigmatize mental illness. Here are some of the initiatives put in place for the 2011-12 academic year at Western to support students with mental illness


• Counselling and consultation services are provided to residence students through a full-time residence counsellor – Chris Mellon MSW, RSW. Her office is located in Elgin Hall;

• 150 residence staff and 800 sophs have been trained on active listening, initiating meaningful conversations and connecting to campus resources when they notice someone is struggling;

• “How are you? … No, really, how are you?” Campaign. Buttons with cards are distributed to all incoming first-year students, staff and sophs (a total 6,500). The key message is to look out for each other and check in when you notice someone is struggling;

• “Ask, Listen, Connect” button campaign for 1,000 residence staff and sophs on campus provides easy reminders to follow when having conversations with students who are struggling;

• Increased residence focus on late-night weekend programs to ensure alternatives to drinking alcohol, and to reach out to students who may be experiencing isolation and loneliness;

• Residence is adopting a community development model in programming;

• In September 2010, Housing mandated suicide first response and suicide intervention courses for all residence staff and managers in the form of two courses called safeTalk and ASIST. Housing personnel who have completed the two-day course are able to identify those who may be having thoughts of suicide. Each program offers an intervention skills and a framework to address increasing levels of helping competency. Housing continues to broaden the offering of this training to campus partners. The goal is encouraging open, direct and honest talk about suicide to increase the number of those seeking help.


Student Development Centre

• A large number of group programs are offered in Psychological Services and address issues of students coping with the stress involved in starting a new chapter in their lives;

• Specialized groups will be offered to meet the needs of international students;

• Learning Skills and the Writing Support Centre have added new staff, writing tutors, workshops and on-line information. The Learning Help Centre will be opening soon to offer students drop-in assistance with all of their learning needs;

• The Writing Centre has a satellite service in The D.B. Weldon Library to assist students with their writing concerns;

• Indigenous Services is offering its Access Transition Opportunities program through more faculties this year, helping First Nations students with additional academic and personal/cultural supports to increase their likelihood of success;

• Services for Students with Disabilities encourages students to come in as soon as possible to arrange for accommodation strategies.


Student Health Services

• A new intake/crisis social worker was hired in August to enable everyone to be seen within a short timeframe of calling and provide more availability on a daily basis for urgent concerns. Changes to counseling procedures and intake have substantially decreased its waiting list;

• A full-time psychiatrist was hired;

• Student Health 101 contains monthly articles on mental health;

• There is a dedicated mental health section on the Student Health Services website.


University Student’s Council

• The USC-appointed mental health issues commissioner runs the Holding on to Hope Campaign, initiated by former Western student Jennifer Francis. It educates students about mental health and the stigma associated with it. In addition to its website, the campaign hosts mental health awareness days, supports on-campus and community connections and fundraising initiatives.