McMaster launches student mental health and well-being strategy

The McMaster Health Forum congratulates McMaster University on the launch of the new Student Mental Health & Well-Being Strategy and website.

“Mental health is gaining recognition around the world as an issue with serious personal and societal implications,” said John Lavis, Director of the McMaster Health Forum. “We’re proud not only to see McMaster University acting on this issue, but to have contributed to the dialogue informing this strategy.”

In April 2013, the Forum hosted a student-led stakeholder dialogue ‘Addressing Student Mental Health Needs at McMaster University’ that explored ways to better support students struggling with mental health issues. Funded in part through Forward with Integrity*, and organized by undergraduate students Sherna Tamboly and Emily Milko under the Forum’s leadership, the dialogue brought together 21 stakeholders from across campus including academic and student leaders, mental health service providers, students and family members, leaders from other universities and a mental health researcher.

Following the 2013 Forum dialogue, the Daily News reported that “Providing students with supports around mental health has long been a priority at McMaster.” In the words of Sean Van Koughnett, Associate Vice-President (Students and Learning) and Dean of Students, one of the goals was to “develop a campus-wide mental health strategy that will focus on the co-ordination of our mental health programs, policies and research, as well as on the identification of any areas for improvement. The research undertaken in the dialogue will help inform this important work.”

Many of the participants’ views on next steps identified in the dialogue, including those of Dr. Catherine Munn (co-lead of the new Strategy), have been implemented in the Student Mental Health & Well-Being Strategy, including:

  • A web-based portal to aggregate all mental health services at McMaster
  • An awareness campaign to reduce stigma around mental illness and to encourage students to seek help early on
  • Increased efforts to coordinate and integrate existing mental health supports on campus
  • The development of a campus-wide mental health strategy

“Mental health and mental health illness is something that really affects almost everyone at some point in time, whether it’s themselves, friends or family members,” says Emily Milko. “It’s often at university that you really start to see some of these issues manifest. Sometimes it’s the stress of being at university, combined with the prevalence of mental health illnesses surfacing at that age.”

The Forum’s mission is to harness the best available evidence, convene concerned citizens and influential thinkers and doers, and prepare action-oriented leaders to meet pressing health challenges creatively.

“We believe that our dialogue process has big impacts, but we’re always excited to watch them as they emerge, particularly in this case when it’s so close to home,” said Lavis.

Watch interviews with 2013 dialogue participants discussing the importance of developing an overarching strategy and building on existing resources in order to address student mental health needs efficiently and effectively.