A Deeper Look into Student Mental Health

Brent Seal on September 22, 2014

For the last couple of years, I have led a multi-pronged research study into the state of mental health on college campuses around BC and across Canada. The intention was to determine what was causing students the most stress and what those students wanted as solutions.

With support from BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services, CMHA-BC and a variety of other organizations and individuals, we conducted a literature review, surveyed around 100 students and wrote a research report of our findings titled ‘Solutions to Common Post-Secondary Stressors: A Deeper Look into Student Mental Health’.

Our findings showed that the mental health of students in colleges and universities across Canada is suffering. For example, our report showed:

“Approximately eight percent (7.6%) of students had been diagnosed with a mental illness in the past 12 months; the most prevalent conditions were anxiety (9.4%), depression (9.2%), and panic attacks (4.2%) (Orr et al., 2006). While suicide was more common among men in this study, women suffered from higher rates of anxiety and depression; in fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death among Canadians aged 14-24 years (Statistics Canada, 2008).”

Solutions like peer support programs and suicide prevention training exist, but need more funding and resources to scale up to make an impact on some of these alarming statistics.  In our research, we found that some of the most common stressors for students are: Finances, Academics and Self-Esteem. Other notable stressors were Relationships, Career Success and Time Management.

We also looked at what formats students would like to receive information about mental health, with Websites, Informal Discussions, Guest Speakers and Newspaper Articles being identified as the most preferred. Low on the list were E-Newsletters, Blogs and Twitter. This reflects the need for high quality information around mental health and a desire for accurate information.

Another area we looked at was ways to reduce stigma, with the following being the most likely to do so: Positive Campus Role Models, Improving Mental Health Policies, Effective Academic Accommodations and Student-led Promotion of Mental Health Awareness.

Finally, we asked students what activities they believed would be most effective in improving students’ mental health, with the following being the most preferred: Wellness Centres, Specialized Mental Health Education for Student Leaders, Education on Identifying and Managing Stress and Mental Health Concerns, and Wellness Activities.

From this research, we can see that students often have the answers needed to reduce the negative impact of mental illness and create healthier campus communities. The next challenge is to create the infrastructure to empower these students to be included in the decision making of resources and supports on campus. This has yet to be done on a large scale, but could provide the solutions we are looking for and make an impact on campus mental health moving forward.

I look forward to being part of those discussions.

- Brent


Brent Seal is the Founder of Seal Wellness, a social enterprise created to support students and young professionals to turn their challenges into opportunities and live great lives through wellness. He will be launching his signature program, High Performance Wellness this Fall. Visit www.SealWellness.com for details.






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BC Children's Hospital

This is an agency of Provincial Health Services Authority, providing provincial tertiary mental health services to the citizens of British Columbia. Programs include: Adult Tertiary Psychiatry, Geriatric Psychiatry, Forensic Psychiatric Services, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Women’s Reproductive Mental Health, as well as the Provincial Specialized Eating Disorders Program for children and youth located at the BC Children’s Hospital.

Provincial Health Services Authority

Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) is one of six health authorities – the other five health authorities serve geographic regions of BC.

Ministry of Health

British Columbia Ministry of Health

RBC Children's Mental Health Project

RBC Children’s Mental Health Project is RBC's cornerstone “health and wellness” pillar; RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues.

BC Children's Hospital Foundation

Through a wide range of fundraising events and opportunities, The BC Children's Hospital Foundation is united with its donors by a single, simple passion - to improve the health and the lives of the young people who enter BC Children's Hospital every day.