Ongoing issues surrounding mental health have the Healthy Campuses Initiative working towards giving students the support they need
George Brown College (GBC) has been working towards a positive change surrounding mental health issues with the Healthy Campuses Initiative (HCI) program, offering extensive support that goes beyond having enough counselors on deck.
HCI is a five-year externally funded program inspired by a variety of group work happening all over Canada and the United States. The program is currently in its second year.
“It’s more of a movement than a project,” says Kate Klein, co-ordinator of the HCI. “Over the last two years, we’ve been intensely working on different things.”
Rather than mapping out five years worth of programs, the HCI tries to keep their plans open to tend to issues that need the most attention, as they arise.
Currently, the focus is on George Brown staff and faculty, and Klein adds that, “there’s really amazing staff and faculty at GBC who really make it their initiative to support students.”
Students are not the only ones who need support.
At a recent college council meeting regarding the issues of mental health, it was said that Waterfront campus has one of the only offices where you can find a private room with a closed door, where many faculty go to let off stress.
In order to offer continuous support to students, Klein believes it’s important that staff and faculty also receive that support and have the proper resources available.
HCI offers a number of workshops and lectures to both faculty and students throughout the year, tailoring them to the unique needs of each campus.
Most recently at a workshop series for staff and faculty, Foundations for Flourishing, HCI provided insight on how all George Brown staff can be proactive with their student support systems.
Klein says students do experience a lot of stress, some of which is a natural effect of being surrounded by so many new things. Taking this into consideration, a lot of factors are discussed and reviewed when it comes to program planning.
“Everything from course design to how students will experience the course in a physical environment is considered,” says Klein.
Physical factors as simple as having windows in a classroom and seeing natural sunlight can make an impact on how students absorb course information.
Mental health is by no means a new issue, but it does seem to be attracting more attention than ever in recent years. Klein believes this isn’t necessarily a new awareness, but rather a new sense of compassion.
“We blame people when they are struggling rather than looking at their environments to see what is really going on with them,” says Klein.
As for future projects and focuses, HCI has no concrete plans. “Every time we start a new project, it requires time to reflect and ask ‘is this working?’,” says Klein.
The final workshops for this year will be offered twice at each campus at the end of April and at the beginning of May.