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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.


With tremendous pleasure I, as co-chair of Campus Mental Health Community of Practice (CoP) present this comprehensive resource. This is based on Post-Secondary Student Mental Health (PSSMH): Guide to a Systemic Approach -- a collaborative initiative between the Canadian Association of Colleges and Universities Student Services (CACUSS) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). In devising this resource, I feel privileged to work with very thoughtful and committed members of our CoP who provided valuable feedback dating back to 2014 when the first draft was devised, to the current one.

In particular, I owe a ton of gratitude to Su-Ting Teo, Cheryl Washburn and Jonny Morris who spearheaded the collaborative effort of devising the Guide. Without their foundational work, this resource wouldn’t come to fruition. Su-Ting and Shaylyn Streatch’s very comprehensive feedback helped to clarify constructs and improving the communicative flow to individuals from diverse professional background. David Ness and Cathy Schroeder played an anchor role in conducting a national survey which highlighted the need of this inventory and resource guide. My co-chairs Patricia Kostouros and Ashley Humeniuk helped tremendously in keeping the initiative alive. I am also grateful to members our CoPs steering committee who attended our meetings and webinars despite their busy schedule and offered many good suggestions. Eric Dore and his colleagues from Polytechnique Montreal, worked with dedication in translating the inventory (items version) in French. The aesthetics and ease of user experience of this website is result of Nomans Land Creative finesse.

The interactive functionality of the website is due to the diligence and attention to detail of Wenbin Cai. Shafik Kamani’s ingenuity has given elegance to the hard copy version of the inventory. I am deeply indebted to Jennifer Hamilton and CACUSS board members who supported the idea with funds and logistical support. David Newman, thank you for promoting the work internationally. This comprehensive work would not have been accomplished without the tremendous support of my colleagues at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC). Desmond Pouyat’s support for my involvement with the Campus Mental Health CoP has been instrumental. My wonderful UTSC students, Basma Chamas, Aryel Maharaj, Karen Young and Taylor Paulite have offered valuable insights from student’s perspective. The editorial polishing provided by Ruth Louden and Danielle Uy helped to improve the flow and comprehension of nuanced aspects of mental health. Finally, throughout this journey, I have felt that all of you have worked with a meaningful motivation—weaved into a commitment—creating a circle of care on campus for our students—a Core Canadian value. We are happy to share this value, translated in this concrete resource with campuses across the world—befittingly marking the 150th birthday of Canada.

- Tayyab Rashid, Ph.D., C.Psych, University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC).

Download Guide in PDF

Download "Assessment Inventory & Planning Guide" in PDF

Download Inventory in PDF (French)


“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.”

© 2016 Canadian Association of College & University Student Services. 150 Eglinton Ave. E., Suite 402 Toronto, ON M4P1E8. All rights reserved.
Website by: Nomans Land Creative | Survey development by: Wenbin Cai