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New Student Psychological Health and Safety Standard To Be Launched

Scott Wallace PhD
Sep 19 · 4 min read

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), in collaboration with CSA Group (standards organization), is leading the development of a Standard on Psychological Health and Safety for Post-Secondary Students (PSS Standard) set to be released in 2020.

The PSS Standard will be voluntary and could be considered for uptake by any college, university, institution, polytechnic or CEGEP. Having a Standard for Psychological Health and Safety for Post-Secondary Students will provide institutions with a framework and guidelines reflective of the best practices and supportive of future new practices to support and promote student mental health, thereby promoting student success.

The Issue

It is no exaggeration to suggest students of all ages today face a mental health crisis — whether child, adolescent, or young adult. Indeed, mounting evidence creates a compelling picture of a world in which students face the greatest levels of stress and mental health challenges than at any other time in history. Some consider this an acute crisis happening among members of our youngest generation, with critical implications for the future. However, students are living in a social environment where they are encouraged to talk about their mental health, but lack the institutional support to assist them following their disclosures. Institutions don’t have the infrastructure, capacity, or funding to allow for specialized support services.

Students juggle academic, financial, and personal demands on a day to day basis. In that context, an increasing number of post-secondary students are experiencing mental health problems. In fact, 75% of first-time mental health diagnoses occur between the ages of 16 and 25. Additionally, a 2016 Ontario University and College Health Association (OUCHA) survey of Canadian post-secondary students showed that a significant number of students experience mental health problems and illnesses:

  • 44.4% of surveyed students reported that at some point in the previous twelve months they felt “so depressed it was difficult to function”,
  • 13% had seriously considered suicide,
  • 2.1% had attempted suicide, and
  • 18.4% reported being “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety.

Schools are an ideal place to implement strategies to address mental health, and technology is a strategy that holds tremendous promise to enhance knowledge about mental health, change attitudes in both students and teachers (e.g. stigma), and help youth learn to improve their mental health and well-being and build resilience. However, educational institutions don’t have the infrastructure, capacity, or funding to allow for specialized support services despite a strong evidence base supporting the recognition of the centrality of student mental health and well-being to good learning and academic success.

Key Objectives of the PSS Standard

In developing the PSS Standard, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has the following project objectives:

  • To collaborate with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA Group) to champion the development of a Standard for Psychological Health and Safety of Post-Secondary Students;
  • Engage key project and community stakeholders (stakeholders defined below) to develop a Standard (and related products) that is relevant, evidence-informed, and practical for post-secondary institutions across Canada to effectively support and promote mental health of students;
  • Develop key tools and resources for post-secondary institutions to assist in their journey to align with the Standard;
  • Encourage uptake of the PSS Standard among post-secondary institutions; and
  • Build evidence to showcase the impact of the PSS Standard on students and postsecondary institutions.

What is the benefit to students?

As declared by the MHCC, the PSS Standard:

  • Will address student mental health at their various stages of their postsecondary careers, their state of well-being and/or mental illness.
  • Will promote a collaborative approach to promoting mental health for students by reinforcing the shared responsibilities of students, staff, and faculty.
  • May decrease stigma and increase help seeking behaviour in students.
  • May increase mental health literacy in both students and staff.

What is the benefit to institutions?

As declared by the MHCC, the PSS Standard:

  • Provide a measurable framework to support student mental health.
  • Identify and promote shared best practices for campus wellness.
  • Support continuous improvement of student services.

Scope of the PSS Standard

The PSS Standard is will provide a voluntary framework to help institutions establish policies, programs, and processes to support and promote student mental health. Institutions will have the flexibility to tailor it to their own needs and circumstances. It will include benchmarks for institutions to measure success in their journey to align with the PSS Standard.

Post- secondary students, colleges, universities, polytechnic institutions, staff/faculty, administration and unions will be directly impacted by the PSS Standard. Indirect impact, related to improved student mental health and student success in post-secondary institutions, will be felt by students’ social networks and support environments such as, families, caregivers, faith-based groups, and other community members.

Is the PSS Standard voluntary?

Like the National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, the Standard for Psychological Health and Safety of Post-Secondary Students will be voluntary. It is a possibility that the Student Standard could be referenced in future legislation, regulation, licensing and accreditation.

What support is available for implement the PSS Standard?

The MHCC webpage will be consistently updated with relevant information. https://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/studentstandard

There is still time to get involved

To review the draft Standard, visit the CSA Group website, register for free access, and download a copy in PDF format.

Click here to review and provide your feedback about the draft PSS Standard no later than November 6, 2019.

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Scott Wallace PhD

Written by

Avail

Avail

Avail works with you to observe changes in your mood, energy, stress, sleep quality and more, and then suggests personalized action plans and support resources to help you improve your well-being and be your best you.

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