Preparing for the Session

This section provides ideas and suggestions for facilitating both in-person and online training sessions. This includes:

  • Key Learning Points
  • Advance Preparation
  • Facilitation Tips and Frequently Asked Questions
  • Detailed Agenda for a Two-Hour Session

Key Learning Points

  • We can all play a role in supporting students’ mental health.
  • Mental health and wellness can be viewed as a wheel in which we’re keeping many different dimensions in balance.
  • Resilience can help us deal with stresses and challenges when the wheel is out of balance.
  • Mental health can be viewed as a continuum, and we are all on some point the continuum at any given time.
  • We can make a difference to a student in distress by knowing how to recognize the signs of distress, responding empathetically, and knowing how to refer the student to other resources.
  • Staff and faculty are not expected to and should never diagnose or act as a counsellor, and they should be aware of their own boundaries and need for self-care.

Advance Preparation

Presentation Slides and Handouts

A set of presentation slides is available to accompany both in-person and online workshops. These slides can be adjusted to meet the needs of your participants and formatted to meet your institution’s guidelines or slide deck templates. You can download the slides here: BCcampus, Capacity to Connect: Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Wellness [PPTX].

There are also two handouts available for download. Handout 1: Wellness WheelHandout 2: Supporting Students in Distress.

To prepare to facilitate this workshop, please consider the following:

  • Read through the facilitator’s guide to familiarize yourself with the content and the callout boxes.
  • Download the presentation slides and make any modifications.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Wellness Wheel and the Mental Health Continuum.
  • Consider how many participants you expect will attend. The guide assumes a small to medium number of participants (approximately 6 to 30); if your group is very large, you may need to modify some of the small group and reflection activities.
  • Prepare to give a territory acknowledgement to open the session (see Opening the Session for more information).
  • Add relevant examples and additional insights based on your own experience or that are relevant to the student population at your institution.
  • Find out what on-campus and community resources are available that support student mental health and well-being and create a resource sheet to share with participants (or have the website ready for viewing on screen).
  • Consider which resources, procedures, or policies at your institution are relevant to helping students who need help.
  • Determine how you will share handouts and other resources, particularly when you are facilitating an online session. You may put PDFs in the chat, share a link in the chat, or email participants after the session.

Preparing for an In-Person Session

You will need the following:

Preparing for an Online Session

  • Schedule a meeting time in a video-conferencing program.
  • Check that the screen share function is enabled for sharing slides.
  • If using chat or breakout rooms, check that they are enabled.
  • Share the meeting link and any passwords with participants prior to the session.
  • Consider sending the meeting information at least twice, including once the day before the session. You may also want to share suggestions for online meeting etiquette for creating a safe learning space (i.e., sharing supportive comments, respecting confidentiality, etc.)
  • Consider assigning someone to be the monitor responsible for responding to technical issues and questions posted to the chat.
  • As noted above, make sure you have a plan for distributing any resources, such as handouts, online. Remember to let participants know how and when they can expect to receive these resources.

Facilitation Tips and Frequently Asked Questions

Facilitating conversations about mental health and well-being can be challenging. Participants likely bring many different experiences, assumptions, ideas, and worries about how best to support students who are struggling with these issues.

It’s important to create a space where people feel safe and supported so they share and listen to others with respect and empathy. This section offers ideas and tips for creating such an environment, but facilitators also have a time limit in which to present material. It’s important to keep an eye on the clock and know how, and when, to direct people’s attention to the next topic.

As mental health and wellness affects all parts of our lives, participants may bring up related issues or concerns. Below are some questions that might come up during the presentation, with suggestions for responses. The goal is to acknowledge people’s comments, thank them for their contribution, and point them to resources they may find helpful. Then the discussion can move back to the specific topic at hand.

What teaching practices can I use in my classroom to support student mental health and well-being?
  • Thank the person for bringing up this important topic.
  • Acknowledge that there isn’t time to address this question in a meaningful way.
  • Direct participants to the supports available at your institution around this topic.
  • Invite the person to talk with you after the session for further assistance.

Why isn’t this institution doing more to support students struggling with mental health and wellness?

  • Acknowledge in a respectful way the person’s commitment to students’ well-being.
  • Let them know that you’ll be sharing resources that are available currently.
  • Invite them to meet with you after the session to share ideas for how the institution could do better.

Why do I have to be responsible for students’ mental health and well-being? We have counselling services for that.

  • Remind people that no one is being asked to take responsibility for students’ well-being.
  • Note that faculty and staff have a role to play, but only if they feel comfortable doing so while maintaining their own boundaries.
  • Suggest that participants who still have concerns after the presentation come and talk with you for further guidance.

I tried to help a student and it went badly.

  • Acknowledge that the person has had a negative experience in the past.
    Focus their attention on the present: by attending this session they can perhaps discover other ways of supporting students while maintaining good boundaries.
  • Invite the person to talk with you after the presentation if they still have concerns.

What about the support for the mental health and well-being of faculty and staff?

  • Acknowledge the importance of the issue being raised: faculty and staff face their own challenges around mental health and well-being.
  • Let people know that there are institutional and community resources available to them and you can provide those after the session.
  • Invite participants to support each other using the skills that are covered in the session. Remind people that we can benefit from being seen and being offered empathy and care.

Detailed Agenda for a Two-Hour Session

This agenda provides suggested timings for activities, but facilitators should feel free to adjust these, including adding a short break as needed.

Activity Time

  • Territory Acknowledgement
  • Introduction of Facilitators
  • Possible Opening Check-in Activity
3 min
Workshop Overview

  • Goals and Objectives
  • Support for Participants
2 min
Opening Activity 4 min
Wellness Wheel

  • Brainstorming Activity
  • Presentation
  • Small Group Activity
15 min
Mental Health Continuum

  • Presentation
  • Short Reflection Activity
7 min
Mental Health Statistics

  • Presentation
  • Short Reflection Activity
5 min
Introduction to Three Rs Framework 1 min
First R: Recognizing

  • Group Activity
  • Presentation
10 min
Second R: Responding

  • Reflection Activity 1
  • Presentation
  • Short Video
  • Video Reflection Activity 2
  • Discussion on Suicide
 20 min
Third R: Referring

  • Presentation
  • Handouts
8 min
Maintaining Boundaries

  • Presentation
  • Brainstorming Activity
15 min

  • Practice Scenarios
  • Debrief
20 min
Summary and Conclusion

  • Summary
  • Maya Angelou Quote
  • Q&A
10 min

Text Attributions

  • This chapter is original text by Barbara Johnston and Liz Warwick. Added “Key Learning Points,” “Advance Preparation,” “Facilitation Tips and Frequently Asked Questions,” and “Detailed Agenda for a Two-Hour Session.” CC BY 4.0 license.


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Capacity to Connect: Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Wellness by Gemma Armstrong; Michelle Daoust; Ycha Gil; Albert Seinen; Faye Shedletzky; Jewell Gillies; Barbara Johnston; and Liz Warwick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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