ACMHI November Wrap-Up

Alberta College of Art + Design Students’ Association

ACADSA continued the Artist in Residence (AiR) program to facilitate a research driven, art, craft and design initiative with the goal of raising awareness towards issues concerning student wellbeing. Students met biweekly to discuss the topic of the residency and brainstorm ideas about creating work which reflects their individual opinions and experiences. The residency then concludes with a group exhibition to showcase all of the work created within this program. ACADSA also provided free massages in the main mall this month, as a crucial stress relieving event.  

Ambrose Student Council

ASC dedicated their early fall semester to putting the finishing touches on their ACMHI funding grant application. Their main focus was developing partnerships, in order to be ready to spring into action once their application was accepted. With funding set to kick in as of December, ASC is planning a distress week that coincides with final exams, as a way for students to balance their stress levels at such a pressure filled time. This week will be filled with fun games and activities which reminds students to take care of their mental health.

Students’ Association of Bow Valley College

SABVC implemented three key events into their mental health campaign this month. One free fitness class was offered per week for the first 3 weeks of the month, as well as “Two Day Puppy Rooms”, which were catered by Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADS). Lastly, an event called the “Mental Health Runway”, in which students who identified as female each wore a t-shirt which highlighted the mental health challenges they faced. This event allowed for mental health challenges to be brought to light, and created an open atmosphere in which it is encouraged to talk about mental health.

Concordia Students’ Association

CSA hosted their Mental Health Wellness Fair, including games, prizes, and food. The fairs brought together many community stakeholders and resources, making students aware of the services and supports available to them in the broader Concordia and highlands community. Yoga classes and free massages were also available for stress relief.

Students’ Association of Grande Prairie Regional College

SAGPRC has begun preparations to the area for the “Indigenous Talking Circle”, in order to create a quiet, safe, and comfortable space for students that is inspired by a local elder and indigenous mental health advocate, Dennis Whitford. Indigenous medicines and art will surround the area, while encouraging communication on mental health issues and concerns.

Students’ Association of Medicine Hat College

SAMHC continues their Peer Support Center, consisting of a Peer Support Coordinator, Vice President Student Life, as well as peer support volunteers who are trained to deliver quality peer support services. The center also held two event weeks in the month of November, “Stress Awareness Week”, and “Family Violence Awareness Week”.

Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Student’s Association

NAITSA incorporated their “Wellness Breakfast” into their mental health planning this past month. In addition to the free meal to start students’ days, there are information stations equipped with pamphlets and representatives to help ensure that students know where, and how, to access these resources on campus. “Creative Nights at the NEST”, allowed for creativity and de-stressing through “PaintNite”, in which local speakers and entertainment surrounding Mental Health and Wellness was provided.

Students’ Association of NorQuest College

SANQC has implemented events in November from their “Awareness Campaign”, in order to solidify the mental health initiative on campus and increase awareness about mental health services available. They Hosted “Addiction Awareness Week”, as well as “Healthy Campus Month”, with Health Services. Both of these events provided hands-on experience in mental health programming and delivered informative, fun, and relevant events to the students at NorQuest College.

Northern Lakes College Students’ Association

NLCSA has begun to carry out their “Mental Health First Aid” program, which offers mental health first aid to communities that are limited to attend to main centers. In this instalment, trainers were sent to High Prairie in order to educate them on mental health challenges in which students are facing. Wellness Wednesday also took place as an anti-stigma/stress relief exercise, with this month’s focus being “Surviving and Thriving college life”.

Students’ Association of Olds College

SAOC continued their November with Life-Management Classes, which provided knowledge of scholarship applications, taxes, time management, and technology skills. The purpose of this is to help alleviate stress from students by giving them real world knowledge and how to handle these tasks in the future. Free massages during exam times, as well as yoga sessions twice a month, were incorporated as well to help reduce stress. SAOC hopes to complete the building of their “Quiet Room” by the end of December. This room will be equipped with comfortable furniture, refreshments, and trained mental health first aid supporters, all for student benefit. 

Students’ Association of Red Deer College

SARDC capped off the month of November with Mental Health First Aid training, free to all students. This course educated students to Identify when a person may be a danger to themselves or to others and take steps to preserve life, as well as recognize the early signs of mental health problems and provide help to prevent more serious problems from developing. Other events included Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), as well as stress relief Puppy Rooms.

Southern Alberta Institute Technology Students’ Association

SAITSA has continued to use Wellness Wednesdays in the month of November. Stress relief events such as “Free Massages”, as well as “Take a Break”, remained highly popular throughout the student body. These chances to relax and socialize with peers, was accompanied by board games, adult coloring, and snacks. Free breakfast, yoga, and puppy rooms also rounded out the month.

The King’s University Student Association

TKUSA used November to host their first mental health week, geared on stress management. The week started off with Puppy Therapy Rooms, followed by collaboration with the Ministry department to host a worship service on prayer as a tool for stress management. The week was then finished off with stress relief involving baking donated by the King’s Science Society, coloring books, and a half-time game at the basketball game that evening to encourage exercise and physical fitness as effective ways to manage stress.

Students’ Association of Keyano College

SAKC used their newly created Wellness Space to host events this past month. Comfortable furniture, along with surrounding large plants, were added in order to improve the overall air-quality of the space. Photos and paintings, covered in encouraging quotes, will also add a positive and peaceful essence to the area. Some events held in this space included “Relaxo Café”, with mental health art instillation displayed, as well as performances by local artists, and refreshment, along with “Stress Less Week”, which promoted student wellness around the peak of stressful times (exam period).

ACMHI Approval Panel

ChairSharon Matthias, Matthias Inc. Connecting For Innovation
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  •         Specializes in supporting leaders in the public and non-profit sector who are pursuing innovative solutions to complex issues. I am a Systemic Design Consultant for Legacy Tools for Alberta Campus Mental Health Innovation. I am also a pragmatic provocateur, passionate about figuring out how the world works. I support leaders in designing major public systems that help people create more meaningful lives and a world that really does work.

MemberSheena Abar, University of Alberta
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  •        Coordinates a team of Community Social Workers at University Alberta who are responsible for extending the spectrum of services offered to support the overall health and wellness of the campus community.  Through preventative action the team engages with partners from campus and surrounding area to strengthen capacity, provide bridges to resources, and advocate for greater inclusivity.  The main goal/function of the team is foster and celebrate connection and resiliency on campus.  This position combines my work at two previous post-secondary institutions with my formal social work training, allowing me to work directly with individuals and groups in developing creative solutions to the issues that arise from everyday situations.
Member – Janki Shankar, University of Calgary
  •       Focuses in Mental Health of Employees Experiencing Mental Illness, Support Needs of Employers, Mental Health Difficulties Among Post-Secondary Students, Domestic Violence in Visible Minority Immigrant Families, Needs of Family Caregivers of People Experiencing Disability. Holds an Adjunct Associate Professor position in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Alberta. 
MemberBernie Wojtozicz, University of Lethbridge
  •      Areas of practice include: Mental health, Mental illness, Crisis intervention, Crisis management, Community mental health, Suicide intervention, Suicide prevention, Depression, Mood disorders, Personality disorders, Psychosis, Anxiety disorders, and Mental status assessment. Chair, NESA BN Programs at Lethbridge College.


MemberDr. Bruce Dick, University of Alberta
  •       AHFMR Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Calgary and Alberta Children's Hospital. My research and clinical interests during this fellowship included chronic pain in children, pediatric reading disabilities, and language development in children with hearing impairment. I joined the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine in July, 2003. Current research activities are primarily focused on the effects of chronic pain on cognitive function across the lifespan.
MemberDr. Jane Springett, University of Alberta
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  •          In recent years, I have returned to my roots in human ecology and am looking at the relationship between ecological sustainability, healthy choices and equity. I am interested in the ways people (including children) and communities make sense of health and its promotion in their daily lives and everyday settings. Over the last 15 years, I have been at the forefront of the development of participatory evaluation in the field of health promotion and health system intervention.


Member Dr. Roger Bland, University of Alberta
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  •         My major interest is in the epidemiology and long-term outcome of psychiatric disorders. For over 30 years I have been involved in projects in the long-term follow-up of people with schizophrenia. I have also, with collaborators, completed studies of the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in Edmonton, investigated attempted suicide in Edmonton and looked at service utilization for mental health problems. For 10 years, we have been involved as the Edmonton site for the Canadian Study of Health and Aging, a major national study designed to estimate the prevalence and incidence of dementia, search for risk factors and determine whether cognitive impairment leads to dementi.
Member – Mary Jane Yates, University of Alberta
  •          Teaching Strategies in Health Promotion Practice. My primary interests include the mobilization of communities to promote both social and ecological health, the use of public health evidence in decision making, and how to promote a culture of openness, inclusivity and empowerment in the places in which I live, work and play. I am currently engaged in a variety of projects looking at the connection between social and ecological aspects of health, including a quality of life impact assessment for the lower Athabasca oil sands region and the development of an inventory of community-based coalitions across Alberta.


Member – Jessica Turowski, ACMHI Project Manager
  •           Works on the behalf of the Alberta Students’ Executive Council (ASEC), as the Project Manager of a provincial mental health project, called the Alberta Campus Mental Health Innovation fund (ACMHI). ACMHI supports student-led mental health initiatives at post-secondary institutions in Alberta. With student leaders at the helm, the aim is to raise awareness about mental health and mental illness, reducing stigma, supplementing peer-led services, and fostering healthy campuses where students feel confident in discussing issues and seeking support. I am passionate about community driven action and work to foster collaborative opportunities between campus partners, community and government partners
Member – Garrett Perlette, ACMHI Project Assistant
  •          Project assistant for Alberta Campus Mental Health Innovation, as well as office administrator for Alberta Students’ Executive Council. I am passionate about post-secondary mental health coping methods, and driven to find successful, and sustainable platforms to create healthy motives in the post-secondary sector.

Some helpful tips to manage stress during exam season!

Reposted from:

Stress is just part of going to university. No question. It seems like  it is a necessary  “co-requisite” of the whole educational program package. There is by  the  way,  an unsubstantiated rumour going around that on the very bottom of the application for admission that you signed, there is a disclaimer in very small, tiny print sayingthat ”the university  accepts nor  responsibility for any extreme amount  of stressor physical  symptoms such as recurring caffeine-induced  headaches,  or  reports of nausea,  diarrhea (sorry too much information) or other physical  manifestations of distress likely  caused from excessive studying or other onerous course demands (e.g.  group projects with uncooperative group members,  etc)." Perhaps another urban myth but we might be able to see some truth, as well as humour in this story.

The MRU semester is like the movement of a train. It’s totally stopped at the station on the first day of classes, and everything looks great for a nice train ride starting this day. But then the doors close,  everyone takes their  seat and the momentum picks up quickly.  Before you know it is mid-term time and assignment deadlines are coming at you, like the posts that seem to fly by as  you glance out the window.of a speeding  train.  By this time in the semester it is full steam ahead with sound of the engines roaring and the blaring of the horn heard a kilometer away. Everyone is usually going full out –  juggling assignments, group projects, term papers and then realizing and gasping – “OMG – final exams are only a couple ofweeks away!!” At this point – the first week of December – there is no slowing down. But  help is  on  the  way.

First action required  right  now…. 


So first, just“BREATHE!” That’s right,  take a deep breath in and let it out… slowly.  It's going to be okay. There are a number of things you can do to get through this.  But really now,  doyou justwant to survive? No, you want to thrive!  And  ultimately,  youwant to  seethatyou canflourish.  We  can offer some sound evidence-based  suggestions  (get   your head around this term if you have heard it before, it’s important and remember it).  What is important is to do things that work for you and engage in activities that are purposeful and intentional to help you achieve your goals. It’s about figuring out what matters most,  and seeking  out support  to help you get there.

  1. Get organized. A number of studies report that the people who are successful are also organized and this applies to university students regardless of academic discipline. Did you notice this connection with the word here“discipline”? Organized and discipline  equals higher follow-through and success rate. Let’s clear up another misconception, or myth,  getting organized  is a skill  that you can learn-it’s  not  just a genetic trait or gender controlled behavior (would be like saying“I/you can’t learn math because of my/your gender”). I still hear this at times. We can all improve at being better organized and managing our time more effectively.  But there is more– much more.
  2. Get the Tools for Success and Get Assistance. Create a specific December/April End of Semester Class and Study Schedule. If you don’t  have a template for a study schedule for the last month of the term,  and aren’t feeling creative you can see the Writing and Learning Services (T123) for this and  many  other  resources and  learning  strategies. There is still a lot you can do in the last few weeks to raise your marks and nail the best mark you can realistically achieve yet this  semester.  There is still time but you need to really get on it now! Make everyday count.  Stop/reduce doing  things that are not moving you towards your academic goals.  Reduce your  paid work hours if you can.  Even a few extra hours can make a big difference in the homestretch.
  3. The Bicycle Wheel and Knowing Your Spokes:  Think of the metaphor of a bicycle wheel. Each spoke you can bend on its own.  But with twenty-five other spokes this can provide a solid interconnected structure that can also offer incredible support and cushion “your ride” so to speak.  Imagine yourself as the hub of a bike wheel (sounds funny okay, but hear me out).  A  flashy titanium hub, strong and solid.  But the hub needs to be connected to each spoke and then to the outer  rim and tire to give  us a sense of complete connection and wholeness.  Ask  yourself who are the individual  spokes on your Wheel? Think of this as your academic and personal success wheel? Sketch-out a   picture of a bicycle wheel with the hub and spokes and wheel and let’s work with this drawing.
  4. Connections and support: No one person alone can be your sole support and meet all of your needs to be successful in university. Think of all of the different people you know in your world who can help you in different ways to achieve Academic success this semester. Are there people in your class that could be part of the fantastic study group for final exams? If so, consider each person in terms of how much they have contributing class and they have really done their homework and showed up throughout the semester. Then you might want to approach them to see if they would be willing to be part of a group where everyone would do certain degree of preparation that could be shared at regular meetings between now and the final exam. This can work very well but there needs to be real clarity and understanding about the expectations and commitment  from each person.
  5. Reach Out: Also, who are your “go to”  people? People you can reach out to for assistance to read over a paper,  talk academic things through or may have some general expertise in an area you are studying.  Could be a parent,  sibling, aunt or uncle,  or friend?  Write their names down and how to contact them (text,  call, email) also check ahead and see if they might be available for questions and support. Ask for what you need!
  6. Activities for self-care and specific exercise/recreation. If you’re feeling a heightened degree of worry or stress at times which is completely normal, make sure that you are building in activities for self-care and specific exercise routines to help you deal with some of the feelings of stress and fatigue that come with an intensive degrees of studying in a short period of time. This could be another spoke on your wheel. Write these out and identify who each spoke could be as you look at a sketched out a picture of a bicycle wheel with different spokes this can also help you have a sense of understanding that you’re not in this alone and that there are good resources that could be of help to you.
  7. Campus Resources:  Don’t hesitate to use the resources here on campus that are part of MRU student services. As the name suggests, these are services here for students (like YOU).What better time to take advantage of these great resources in Student Counseling, Health Services, Health Services andOptimal Therapies (they have great massages by the way; which can be covered by your student insurance plan). These are all located in the MRU Wellness Center at U216 (look for the big orange wall- you can’t miss it)!
  8. The Puppies Are  Coming: There are all these services and more both in the main campus and in Student Association.  There are so many activities at this time of year to help students deal with stress.  Next week, The Peer Health Educators and SAMRU are putting on there annual and ever popular event of bringing the puppies to campus for stress relief and just a  pure joyful, playful, and fun experience. Come and meet the puppies. Wow what a great time!  While this won’t get your major paper written by itself, by taking a stress break and playing with the awesome puppies,  this  can lighten everyone’s load for a while and bring back a refreshed and renewed perspective. Check it out!  Notices will be on your my MRU account as well as posters around the campus.
  9. Supports for Staff & Faculty: At the beginning of the article it spoke about stress that affects everyone including faculty and staff as the semester goes on and everyone’s workload increases dramatically. It would be remiss not to mention some resources for these important members of our community as well. There is an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provided for all MRU staff and faculty by Homewood Human Solutions.  This can be a good place to start to look for help when things are excessively  challenging and stressful.  They offer many face-to-face (f2f) services, as well as  online counselling and resources.   There is counselling and support for   individual employees but also family members,  as we strive to find that elusive balance and also be healthy and vibrant. Human Resources also offers a number of other  wellness programs for employees
  10. Student Counselling Services: Students who wish to make an appointment with Counselling Services can drop by U216 at the Wellness Centre or call 403-440-6362. Appointmentscan we made toseecounsellors anydayoftheweek.  Some drop in time is available everyday generally between 11:00 and 1:00 p.m. Urgent cases and specifically crisis situations are seen as soon as is possible.
  11. Health Services: Students wishing to book an appointment can drop by the Wellness Center or call 403-430-6326 for an appointment to see a Physician. There are three Family Physicians and a Psychiatrist on staff along with a team of nurses and support health professionals. It may take a few days for an appointment during the busy part of the semester.

Thanks for stopping by and for reading the article. Focus on you,  and whatyouneed toaccomplish. But remember you need tocomefirstandtobehealthyandhappy.

Connect - Learn - Share: Wellness Summit 2016

Alberta Campus Mental Health Innovation (ACMHI) supports student-led mental health initiatives in an effort to build healthy campuses. With initiatives across 16 campuses in 36 communities, ACMHI is reaching over 136,000 students through anti-stigma campaigns, awareness workshops, peer-support services, and more.

ACMHI will be hosting its first Wellness Summit on January 29 & 30, 2016 at Lister Centre, University of Alberta. Students, campus practitioners and community partners will come together to workshop solutions and participate in opportunities to share experiences, connect and strengthen partnerships, and coordinate integrated planning for healthy campuses across Alberta. 

This summit will feature a keynote lecture by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and insights from student leaders on innovative mental health initiatives across the province. Through interactive and informative sessions, this summit will inspire and promote meaningful discussion around the current state of mental health services on campuses in Alberta, fostering opportunities to 'Connect, Learn, Share' and providing building blocks for the creation of the Alberta Post-Secondary Mental Health and Addiction Community of Practice. 

Opportunities to get involved:

Call for Proposals: Student leaders can now submit proposals for the opportunity to share their work with Wellness Summit attendees through a 15-minute presentation. Please check out the Call for Proposals tab for a planning template, criteria and submission guidelines.

Knowledge Market Participation: Organizations and student leaders will have the opportunity to share information about their initiatives and work as it relates to post-secondary mental health and addiction. To participate in the Knowledge Market, please fill out the form located in the Knowledge Market tab.

Travel Bursaries: To cover the cost of travel, we are offering travel bursaries for students. Please make sure to fill out the travel bursary application under Travel & Transportation and email relevant receipts to

Important Dates & Deadlines

  • Travel Bursary application (with receipts submitted via email): December 4, 2015

  • Proposals for Student Presentations: December 11, 2015

  • Registration, Knowledge Market & Hotel Room Booking: January 6, 2016



Surveying mental health services on campuses in Alberta

Recent statistics confirm that attending post-secondary can be stressful, to say the least. Demands for mental health support are rising as post-secondary students face overwhelming stress (70%), anxiety (57%), loneliness (64%), and exhaustion (88%).* But, are the mental health services provided by Alberta’s post-secondary institutions effective and adequate enough to meet the mental health needs of their students?

A recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry set out to answer this question -- through an online survey consisting of 60 questions, sent to administrators, counsellors & medical professionals at all of Alberta's publicly funded post-secondary institutions.

Here's what they found: 

1.  On Mental Health Promotion: programs/initiatives that increase mental health awareness

  • Each institution has multiple groups (i.e. students' associations, counselling centres etc.) involved in mental health promotion.
  • Only 44% of small** institutions have these programs in place, compared to an 88% & 89% for medium and large institutions, respectively.
  • Only 17% of the small institutions' respondents responded positively when asked whether current campus promotion programs were effective and a good use of campus resources.
  • 86% of all respondents indicated that their institution could benefit from expanding campus mental health promotion and outreach programs.
  • Outreach initiatives targeted at specific groups (i.e. first-year, international, Aboriginal, LGBTQ students) were present in only 50% of small and 75% of medium & large institutions.

2. On Campus Social Support & Mental Health Climate: elements like student groups, peer support centres, mentor programs etc. that reduce stress and encourage self-care & discussion on mental health to contribute to a healthy campus

  • For small institutions, a peer support centre and international students' centre were the most frequently cited available social supports.
  • For medium and large institutions, Aboriginal centres, peer support centres, and LGBTQ clubs were the most frequently identified campus social support.
  • The majority of institutions indicated that they had a student residence.

3. On Identification: initiatives designed to identify students with and (or) at risk for developing mental health problems

  • Among small institutions, 83% agreed that faculty and/or staff were informed about mental health and available campus services, compared to 67% of respondents at medium and 88% at large institutions.
  • Across all institutions, 63% reported that students are able to alert the institution of preexisting mental health problems.
  • Only two institutions in the province require incoming students to fill out a medical history questionnaire.

4. On Campus Medical, Counselling & Accessibility Services

  • On-campus medical services were offered at 44% of small, 88% of medium, and all large institutions. 
  • 44% of small and 71% of medium and large institutions indicated that counselling centre staff had undergone cross-cultural training.
  • At most institutions, counselling services limited the length and (or) number of sessions.
  • 22% of small, 43% of medium, and 57% of large institutions indicated that they plan and coordinate mental health resources with community-based mental health services.

What does it all mean? 



All post-secondary institutions in Alberta offer various forms of mental health support. Smaller institutions, however, are less likely to offer some of these services. This isn't because they are less committed to campus mental health programs, but likely due to lack of resources. This may be a problem for students who have specific mental health needs that need to be met, as they cannot assume that all institutions will be able to provide mental health services to suit their needs.

So, knowing what mental health services are available on each campus in Alberta may be useful for students when it comes to making decisions about the best way to have their mental health needs met while they attend a post-secondary institution. Unfortunately, a central database of available services does not exist at the moment, making it difficult for potential students and their families to compare services across institutions.

* All data was taken from ACMHI 2014 Survey.

** Small institutions (<2,000 students); medium (2,000-10,000); large (>10,000 students)