Improving the Mental Health of Post-Secondary Students in Atlantic Canada Through Collaborative Action

A Multi-Stakeholder Summit
Presented by the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) in partnership with Medavie Health Foundation

McInnes Room, Dalhousie Student Union Building, Dalhousie University
May 12-13, 2015

Making the Connection events in 2012 and 2013 identified a commitment to develop collaborative approaches to student mental health within and among post-secondary campus communities in Atlantic Canada, utilizing the support of a fully-engaged corporate partner - the Medavie Health Foundation.

The feedback from participants in these two valuable conferences identified recommendations to ensure future events were hands-on with actionable agendas that could lead to the development of a sustainable plan for collaborative planning, implementation and evaluation of a systemic post-secondary mental health strategy for Atlantic Canada.

This two day interactive event is designed to bring together:

  • Post-secondary students, faculty (including researchers), and staff
  • Leaders from the Atlantic Provincial Divisions of the Canadian Mental Health Association 
  • Local and provincial government, community agencies and NGOs representing the determinants of health and well-being (including education, justice, labour and economic development, culture and diversity, and health sectors)
  • Funding agencies

Facilitators from the British Columbia Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses Initiative will support participants to:

  • Take stock of current issues and initiatives 
  • Identify gaps and opportunities 
  • Define priorities (including resources for action) 
  • Develop a model to support ongoing knowledge exchange, mobilization and collective action
  • Prepare to implement the model 

The expertise and energy of summit participants will lead to innovative, sustainable and impactful collaborative initiatives across the region - a model that supports knowledge exchange, mobilization, and collective action leading to healthy minds and healthy campus communities.

Summit Objective:
To strengthen conditions that support greater collaboration between individual post-secondary institutions, between other sectors, and with community organizations in support of improved post-secondary student mental health in Atlantic Canada.

Summit facilitators: 
Jonny Morris, Senior Director of Policy, Research, Planning, Canadian Mental Health Association, British Columbia Division (CMHA BC)
Shaylyn Streatch, Coordinator of Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses, Canadian Mental Health Association, British Columbia Division (CMHA BC)


Welcome and Greetings

Host: Dr. Richard Florizone, President, Dalhousie University
Greetings from the Province of Nova Scotia: The Honourable Leo A. Glavine, Minister of Health and Wellness, and Seniors
Welcome from the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs:
Mr. John G. Paul,
Executive Director, Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs

Opening Session: Mentally Healthier Campus Communities – A Case Conference
Facilitator: Jonny Morris, CMHA BC
   This plenary session is designed to be a flip on the traditional critical incident response team case conference whereby we will be shifting the gaze from the individual student to the broader campus context.
Through a series of interactive questions, case conference panel members will be asked to think out loud together about their take on the kinds of conditions and factors that create and support healthy campus communities, which in turn help students to thrive and reach their full potential.
A student response panel will then have an opportunity to provide their reflections on the themes they heard emerge during the case conference discussion.
ith a student-centred focus, this panel will help launch the collaborative process underpinning the Summit activities.

Case Conference Discussion Panel
Mr. Reid Burke, Executive Director, Canadian Mental Health Association, PEI, Atlantic Region Representative
Dr. Elizabeth Church, Vice-President, Academic, Mount Saint Vincent University
Dr. Rice Fuller, Director, Counselling Services, University of New Brunswick
Dr. Aimée Surprenant, Interim Associate Dean of Science, Memorial University

Student Response Panelists
Kayti Baur, Equity Officer, StudentsNS
Alexandra Heighington, Vice President, Communications, University of Prince Edward Island Student Union
Candace Simms, Student Assistant, Memorial University
Lee Thomas, Founder, #MyDefinition, Graduate, University of New Brunswick

Keynote: Catalyzing Change from Within: Harnessing Collaborative Action to Promote Campus Mental Health
Jonny Morris, CMHA  BC
   The context of the higher education institution presents a unique opportunity to take collaborative action in response to the complex phenomena of mental health, harmful substance use, and suicidal behaviour within campus communities. Building upon the existing rich capacity for teaching and learning in campus communities, a collaborative response holds promise for positioning local wisdom, context-driven solutions, and strategic relationships in leveraging campus mental health promotion efforts.
   This address will take you on a brief fieldtrip to BC’s Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses Initiative where we hold space for students, campus professionals, faculty, administrators, and community organizations to identify locally relevant priorities and take action together through learning and dialogue. We will then return to the local, exploring how the collective expertise, intelligence, and energy within Atlantic Canada can contribute to a strategic response to campus mental health.
   This keynote will prepare participants for collaborative action on the mental health challenges faced by all in post-secondary environments in Atlantic Canada.

Mental Health and the Transition to Post-Secondary Education: Making sense of a confusing time
Dr. Stan Kutcher, Sun Life Chair and Adolescent Mental Health and Director World Health Organization Collaborating Center, Dalhousie University

Planning for Action: Using Post-Secondary Student Mental Health – Guide to a Systemic Approach to Take Stock and Step Forward
Facilitator: Shaylyn Streatch, CMHA BC
   This dynamic session will use a facilitated World Café process to help Summit participants take stock of existing strengths and opportunities within the Atlantic Canada post-secondary and community context in relation to student mental health.
   The session is framed by the question “What does mental health and wellbeing look like on campus and how do we get there?”
   Through a series of World Café conversations, Summit participants will develop an understanding of the national framework Post-Secondary Student Mental Health – Guide to a Systemic Approach, and will use the document to:

  • Analyze the current state of actions supporting student mental health in Atlantic Canada on campuses and in community (Now);
  • Establish what might be possible to continue, strengthen, and innovate in the area of improving student mental health by campuses and community partners (Wow);
  • Determine what next actions are possible (How);


Taking the Summit Pulse (Case Conference Reconvenes) Panels on “How are we Doing so Far”
   This panel session will reconvene opening plenary panel members from Day #1 to provide reflections and comment on the Summit process so far. Feedback from the panel members and other Summit participants will help to link the dialogue from Day #1 to the upcoming Open Space session.

Open Space Introduction
Jonny Morris, CMHA BC
   Participants will be invited to pitch a topic for discussion, seek guidance from their colleagues, propose future collaborative projects or showcase something they want to share. The topics will form two rounds of participant-driven concurrent sessions for meaningful, effective knowledge exchange and generation.

Open Space Concurrent Sessions 1

 Open Space Concurrent Sessions 2

The Stay Connected Mental Health Project: An Update on University Activities
Dr. David J. Pilon, Program Leader, Specialty Mental Health Services, Nova Scotia Health Authority

Designing a Made in Atlantic Canada Network Focused on Improving Student Mental Health
Facilitators: Jonny Morris, CMHA BC & Shaylyn Streatch, CMHA BC
   This final session will focus on harnessing the collective input of as many Summit participants as possible. Using a series of action-oriented questions, participants will work together to identify priorities for next steps in developing and sustaining an Atlantic Canada network that involves campuses and community partners designed to work together to improve student mental health. Theming, prioritizing, and interactive voting will help the Summit conclude with a clear and practical vision of what’s next.