The Wellness Fund will help create and maintain more inclusive programming and peer-to-peer service for the Carleton community to increase student engagement, awareness, and participation in our wide spectrum of mental health and wellness services. It will allow Carleton to implement practical methods to strive for equity, diversity and inclusion on campus, and empower our students, faculty, staff and community to thrive on campus and beyond through personal wellness and mental health initiatives and resources. We are currently engaged in a research project that aims to identify – from a students’ perspective – both barriers and facilitators to accessing mental health supports on campus, and how the transition to online learning has impacted mental health supports and academic success. Working directly with students, this information can be used to inform the development of programs and services, and ensure the Wellness Fund is directly addressing the needs of our students.

Carleton University prioritizes mental health and academic success as a symbiotic relationship. The university engages in continued efforts to improve and support mental health, resilience, and wellness for community members, which directly impacts student success. It is important to note that we are a widely diverse student population, and it is imperative that services benefit every student, while taking into account differing intersecting identities. According to Carleton’s Draft Recommendations for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Institutional Action; Carleton should “prioritiz[e] the mental health needs of Racialized students who are said to represent approximately 47% of the student population.” With the Wellness Fund, we hope to focus our efforts on continuous improvement of our campus activities and services through advocating for appropriate care, representative service, and making service more accessible for students from diverse backgrounds, lived experiences, and identities.

The Background

About 50% of Canadian students felt “so depressed it was difficult to function” & 68.9% “felt overwhelming anxiety.”

– NCHA II: Canadian Consortium Executive Summary, Spring 2019

Mental health is a growing concern within universities and colleges (concern has doubled over the past five years) and impacts student academic success. There is currently no fund devoted to wellness programming on campus. A fund is essential to provide effective support to students.

We want to address the reality that the majority of Carleton’s services are only reaching a homogeneous audience. A Wellness Fund would help create programming to connect students and modify services, to be better equipped to support our whole student population. At Carleton, the Student Mental Health Framework, EDI integration, and Strategic Integrated Plan (SIP) all strive for a holistic, campus-wide approach. As students, we wish to do our part to engage with underserved groups to truly promote mental and physical health and wellness for all. We will do this by working to seamlessly integrate professional programming with grassroots student initiatives.

Overwhelming research has demonstrated that peer support is an evidence-based mental health model of care. There is also intrinsic value in the reciprocal learning opportunity for both the students being supported and students hired as mental health facilitators.

The Rollout

Funds raised through Future Funder will be used to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are tied to wellness at Carleton. This fund will be the base for the work of peer-led initiatives of the Student Mental Health Engagement Committee, Health Promotion, Harm Reduction, and Spirituality which all make up important components of Carleton Wellness.

We will create opportunities for student consultations, partnerships, and leadership in mental health initiatives from all areas connected to Wellness. When students are actively engaged, this helps build capacity within the university, can prevent mental health crises and contributes to overall academic success. Your donation to the Wellness Fund will:

  • Kickstart a secure fund devoted to promoting and increasing utilization of Carleton’s mental health and wellness services
  • Allow for students to be the driving force behind all programming and initiatives from the fund
  • Promote accessibility in higher education by reducing the barriers preventing individuals from unlocking their full potential
  • Implement programs and resources that will be effective and increase help-seeking behaviours of students as well as educating the Carleton community on our gaps in service in order to work toward continuous improvement
  • A commitment to assessment built into programming to ensure the constant feedback loop, which is necessary to obtain critical information about the student experience
  • Foster ongoing relationships with student groups (clubs/societies/student associations) to offer continued collaboration and maintain accurate insight into student experience
  • Build relationships with external organizations, initiatives, charities to expand service beyond the walls of our campus

Some examples of projects that have been supported by the Wellness Fund include:

  • The African, Caribbean, and Black (ACB) stream in Community Connections. The Fund provided the wages of the 4 hired mentors who provided 2-5 hours per week to support African, Caribbean, and Black students at Carleton looking to access customized peer support.
  • Funding a major research project in partnership with the Department of Psychology. This research study was an intentional examination of Psychosocial Factors with the ultimate goal of gaining information from students on what services they accessed, what barriers exist, what types of services they need, and more. These results will help shape and inform the implementation of the refreshed Student Mental Health Framework.

The Impact

“We acknowledge that bias, harassment, and discrimination on the basis of inherent and often intersecting aspects of identity occur both outside and inside the walls of the academy” (from Draft EDI Recommendations). This poses a barrier for accessing mental health services, which this fund will work to alleviate through better understanding of those who are currently underserved.

We envision a campus where students see themselves represented in mental health and wellness programming, service delivery (whether peer-led or professional), and ultimately a thriving campus community where individual personal wellness is being actualized.

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