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Post-Secondary Student Mental Health: Guide to a Systemic Approach

This guide outlines a Inventory for addressing student mental health in post-secondary institutions. It is the result of a commitment undertaken by the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) to strengthen student mental health. Another product of that commitment, Mental health and wellbeing in post-secondary education settings: A literature and environmental scan to support planning and action in Canada (MacKean, 2011) outlines the current status of postsecondary student mental health and recommends a more system wide approach that extends the focus from “treating individuals... to promoting positive mental health at a population level...” (page 10). The Inventory presented in this guide continues this work by outlining a Systemic Approach that focuses on the creation of campus communities that foster mental well-being and learning.

This guide is designed as a resource to support the creation of campus communities that are deeply conducive to transformative learning and mental well-being through a Systemic Approach to student mental health in colleges and universities in Canada. It provides a Inventory to support campus self-assessment, strategic goal setting, and the identification of options for change that can be used to inform planning and evaluation. It is recognized that each post-secondary institution has unique strengths, circumstances, and needs. Therefore, while the broad areas for strategy development identified in this guide are relevant for all institutions, more specific strategies within each category need to be developed by each individual institution. This enables each institution to develop strategies that consider its own uniqueness and context. Even though the approach outlined in this guide is targeted at whole institutions, these ideas can also be used by students, staff, and faculty for individual units or departments within institutions. While the focus of this Inventory is on student mental health, this in no way minimizes the need to address the broader scope of health, recovery and well-being on campuses, inclusive of faculty, staff and students. It is also recognized that the mental health and well-being of a student’s family, friends, and community members, organizations and institutions of employment, and general socioeconomic, cultural and environmental conditions have an impact on a student’s mental well-being. However, this Inventory does not focus directly on improving the mental health of staff, faculty and students’ personal networks, nor does it provide guidance on addressing conditions ‘outside’ post-secondary institutions.


Post-Secondary Student Mental Health: Guide to a Systemic Approach was a collaborative initiative between Canadian Association of Colleges and Universities Student Services (CACUSS) & the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). This Inventory is devised from this Guide by Tayyab Rashid (University of Toronto Scarborough), as the co-chair of the Campus Mental Health, Community of Practice, a group of the CACUSS. Rashid is grateful to Su-Ting Teo, Cheryl Washburn, Ashley Humeniuk, Patricia Kostouros, Jonny Morris, Shaylyn Streatch and Ruth Louden for providing insightful comments and feedback in drafting this inventory.

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CACUSS

“Mental health is essential to students’ academic success as well as their ability to participate fully and meaningfully throughout all aspects of their lives and throughout their lifespan.”

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