Conestoga will be one of more than 200 post-secondary institutions across Canada participating in the 2021 Bell Let’s Talk campus campaign - a national movement focused on engaging Canadians to take action to create positive change in mental health.
This year, the campaign has been enhanced with a digital toolkit to ensure institutions safely engage with students. Designed to keep the student mental health conversation going during the challenges of COVID-19, the toolkit contains resources like a virtual photo booth for students and employees to post selfies and share personalized mental health messages; wellness activities that encourage awareness and self-care; and short films about mental illness, hope and recovery. Conestoga’s Student Success Services will share campaign messaging through its social media channels as well as information about mental health support for students at the college, and encourages students and employees to join that conversation.
According to the 2019 National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey of 55,000 students across Canada, more than 80 per cent of students felt “overwhelmed by everything to do” in the previous year. Close to 70 per cent reported feeling that “things were hopeless” at some point as well. At Conestoga, similar numbers were reported as part of the NCHA survey: 66 per cent of student respondents reported feeling very sad and 61 per cent had experienced overwhelming anxiety.
This year, the college broadened its student mental health outreach through an investment in 9,000 Press Pause kits for all Ontario-based first-year fall 2020 students.
Designed and launched by fourth-year Bachelor of Design student Taylor Jackson, Press Pause is a mental wellness self-help kit that takes individuals away from the noise of online spaces to focus on their well-being. The evidence-based mental health tool kit guides students through journaling, reflection, future-planning and positive-thinking exercises. The kit has been reviewed and validated by health-care workers, including the college’s Student Health & Wellness team who were consulted on development of the product.
“In this unprecedented global pandemic, we know our students are facing uncertainties and hardships that directly impact their well-being,” said Bonnie Lipton-Bos, director, Student Success Services. “With the addition of Press Pause, we offer a full continuum of mental health supports from self-help and peer support to professional counselling and medical intervention. Providing our students with support options is essential, especially now.”
Each kit contains an invitation to students to share their experience using the Press Pause materials online to help promote the importance of self-care and mental health awareness, as well as instructions on how to sign-up for specially designed virtual peer support groups. These special sessions are intended to engage students who receive the kits to share with each other how they are using them, to build supportive connections, and foster commitment and accountability through a community of practice. There is also an opportunity for students to provide feedback.
All Conestoga, clinical staff, Student Engagement and Student Success advisors have also been provided with kits to use as reference when helping students.
In addition to the delivery of Press Pause, Conestoga student Health & Wellness services continues to offer mental health support through virtual counselling and peer support appointments. Weekly virtual peer support drop-in groups include Depression, Anxiety & Hope and Mindful Monday, and virtual counselling workshops will be offered throughout the winter term.
Additional student programming will be available during the Winter Health & Wellness Week that runs February 8 to 12.
Conestoga’s Student Success Services is comprised of wellness and learning supports to help students develop skills and gain success. Services include tutoring and academic support, accessible learning, career advising, mental health support and medical care.