From the Mental Health Commision of Canada Catalyst – When the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) — together with our partners, Bell Let’s Talk, The Rossy Foundation, the RBC Foundation, and Health Canada — set out to champion the development of a National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety of Post-Secondary Students, in collaboration with the standards development organization CSA Group, we knew it had to reflect a mosaic of diverse experience. Acquiring a post-secondary education can be exciting, transformative, and demanding. But with 50 per cent of students using campus mental health services, we also see that it can be a time of susceptibility to mental health problems or illnesses.

“There are two million post-secondary students in Canada,” said Ed Mantler, the MHCC’s vice-president of programs and priorities. “So there’s going to be two million perspectives on what we need to include in the standard. We’re trying to represent that kaleidoscope of experience as closely as we can.”

On April 26, the MHCC held a Northern Perspectives event at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse, Yukon. “Through our Dialogue in a Box initiative, students, educators, and administrators were giving us a lot of great feedback,” explained Sandra Koppert, the MHCC’s director of programs and priorities. “While we were funnelling that information back to the CSA Group Technical Committee, whose members are developing the technical content for the standard, our blueprint still had a gaping hole without a thorough assessment of the northern student experience.” To fill that gap, Koppert and her team arranged a day of learning dedicated to the needs of students in the North. The reaction to the day’s agenda was nothing short of extraordinary.

Technical Committee member Wally Rude, who is also registrar and dean of enrolment services at Yukon College, believes the event will have a far-reaching impact. “The event was stellar. It was well planned, well attended, and it fostered a hospitable atmosphere. The participants offered critical insights on the challenges and opportunities of supporting student well-being in the North,” he said. “It was an honour and privilege to participate in the event along with a number of colleagues and students from Yukon College. Above all, it’s the student-centric approach that will truly transform the mental wellness landscape in post-secondary institutions across the country.”

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