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March 26, 2019 2:51 PM

Conestoga launches new Student Mental Health Strategy

Conestoga has launched a new strategy to support student mental health and well-being. The initiative will engage community members across the college to develop actionable priorities to help optimize student learning and success.

Although many students thrive in post-secondary settings, Bonnie Lipton-Bos, director of Student Success Services, said that a large number of students report they are struggling. Conestoga’s incoming student survey for fall 2018 revealed that 18 per cent of new students had accessed support within the first four weeks of class to deal with stresses. Conestoga’s Counselling Services, Medical Clinic and Accessible Learning departments have all marked continued increases in student requests for support of their mental health.

Lipton-Bos added that supporting student mental health is essential for student learning and success. A provincial survey found that 24 per cent of Ontarians with mental health and addiction disabilities discontinue their formal education or training because of their condition.

“We’re seeking input from across the college community,” said Lipton-Bos. “It’s important to engage and seek feedback from students and employees in order to leverage existing strengths and learn more about the gaps we have and how to address them.”

Community involvement in the SMHS began this month with the launch of stakeholder labs at various campuses for both college employees and students.

“We’ve really appreciated the support and participation in the stakeholder labs,” said Lipton-Bos. “Collecting feedback related to student mental health and well-being will help us develop priorities which we’ll use as a foundation for determining what services, training, resources and cultural shifts will support student mental health and well-being going forward.”

Feedback from the college community was also collected recently by members of campus street teams who engaged with students and employees, and an employee survey will be conducted this April. The work is supported by the Mental Health Services Grant through the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, and is being developed in consultation with Kitchener-Waterloo’s Overlap Associates.

Following consultation with stakeholders, a cross-college SMHS committee will be formed to analyze findings, make recommendations and develop a plan to implement action items. It is expected that implementation of the action items will begin this fall.

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