A lot has happened since MacEwan University launched its Changing Minds program back in 2018. More than just a set of services, Changing Minds is an invitation to the entire campus community – students, faculty and staff – to join the conversation about mental health. Here are eight ways we’ve been changing our minds over the past two years.
1. Shifting the way we look at mental health
Since January 2018, the Inquiring Mind workshop for students has been offered 27 times, introducing students to the mental health continuum, dispelling myths and introducing ways to recognize symptoms of declining mental health in ourselves and others – tools they can use for the rest of their lives. Workshops run throughout the year (check out the schedule here). And students aren’t the only ones learning. In just over a year, MacEwan faculty and staff have taken part in 13 the Working Mind workshops (with nine more are scheduled over the next four months), which help MacEwan employees learn how to support students and each other.
2. Students helping students
If you’ve stopped in the halls to talk about stress, decorate a cookie or pet a PAWSS dog sometime in the last two years, you’ve probably already met our volunteer peer health educators. Since the summer of 2018, these students have been regular fixtures on campus – hosting weekly table displays and monthly wellness stations (check out the full schedule on MacEwan Life). The most popular topic they address, by far, is managing stress, which makes perfect sense since more than half of all MacEwan students say that stress has affected their academic performance at some point in the year.
The first step in being there for people is, well, just being there
“We’re not therapists and we’re not psychologists, but we can be there for other students. We can listen. We can share resources. And we can make sure they don’t feel alone.”
Technically, the Pets Assisting with Student Success (PAWSS) program was around a few months before we launched Changing Minds, but the two programs are a perfect (or maybe purr-fect or fur-fect?) match. Every Friday, PAWSS hosts drop-in sessions where students can spend some quality time with our favourite canines and felines – and take part in some of our peer health educators’ stress-busting activities too. See the upcoming events/workshops schedule on MacEwan Life for details.
4. The mind-body connection
Taking care of your physical wellness can be tough when you’re juggling classes, studying or working – or when you’re uncomfortable even going to the gym in the first place. The Fit Buddy program pairs students who are already comfortable using the gym with those who could use some company during their first workouts.
Taking Fit Buddy a step further is the PASS program, where counsellors and case managers in Wellness and Psychological Services can provide students with a “prescription” for scheduled sessions with a certified personal trainer or exercise physiologist.
5. A new health centre
In its first year of operation, the MacEwan University Health Centre saw more than 1,000 MacEwan students as patients. The number one reason student patients walked through the doors at 10507 109 Street? Mental health concerns. The centre offers students, faculty and staff one-stop access to medical teams led by senior physicians and supported by primary care nurses, medical assistants and mental health professionals.
6. Talking it out together
In addition to individual counselling sessions, Wellness and Psychological Services now offers group therapy for mental health issues, including social anxiety, generalized anxiety and depression, feelings and art therapy. Not only is the therapy well received (the sessions are full every time they’re offered), it normalizes the feelings that many students have about loneliness and reinforces that students aren’t alone in feeling them. Learn more about counselling options and how to access them.
7. Sharing our stories
Mental health is an ongoing theme in our Portraits of MacEwan series, where students, faculty and staff generously open up with their own personal stories of success, struggle, self-care, kindness, resilience and learning.
8. We know the work isn’t done
As we’ve been introducing a number of services, programs and partnerships over the past two years, we’ve also been working behind the scenes gathering data and consulting with students to create a comprehensive student mental health strategy. The strategy promotes looking at mental health as a core value of our university and how we can continue weaving mental health into the culture of our institution. The goal? To make resources more accessible and ensure that quality services are being provided. Watch for more information on the strategy later this year.
Changing Minds connects students, faculty and staff with training opportunities, support services and resources related to mental health.
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