Mental health and wellness education and training resources should be:
Currently post-secondary institutions use a range of principles, philosophies, and approaches to guide the use of resources that support student mental health and wellness on campus. Two advisory groups of staff, faculty, and students worked together to identify key principles for education and training resources that support students with mental health and wellness. These principles capture both the how and the what of effective training resources: What does the resource do? How does it accomplish this?
Ideally, all resources will include all six principles. However, this will be difficult to accomplish. Our goal is to identify those resources that explicitly or implicitly embed the majority of the principles outlined below. These principles are drawn from the guiding theories and are required components to delivering effective mental health and wellness education and training.
Access typically refers to all the ways in which organizations work to accommodate the needs of people from a variety of backgrounds, abilities, and learning styles.
Accessibility means having a place, environment, or event that is set up from the start to be accessible to all individuals. This may require strategies that address actual and potential barriers, such as offering learning materials in multiple formats and languages, using plain language, and ensuring representation of diverse needs in resources and training materials.
- Resources developed using principles of the Universal Design for Learning approach to accommodate learning and other access differences.
- Low barriers to use and entry, such as being welcoming and avoiding stigmatization.
- Online courses that include images of individuals with disabilities engaged in their communities.
- Resources developed for individuals who do not have internet access or internet-enabled devices.
- Free online resources available without paywalls.
- Using plain language.
- Different delivery methods, such as in person and online.
Recognizing that all post-secondary institutions are unique, mental health and wellness education and training resources must be adaptable to different audiences and campus contexts. Resources should have creative commons licensing that allows for adaptation.
- Resources that can accommodate the branding of any institute, college, or university that chooses to adopt them.
- Resources that include stories and perspectives and refer to services that are meaningful for both urban and rural individuals.
- Resources that can be delivered online, face to face, or blended and could be self-directed or facilitated.
- Resources that are sustainable.
- Resources that have a modular format and licensing that allows for adaptation.
Culture is a complex phenomenon that includes the worldviews, knowledge, values, traditions, beliefs, capabilities, and social and political relationships of a group of people. Mental health and wellness resources must recognize and incorporate diverse cultural identities and value the knowledge and experience participants bring to the learning environment. Individuals in different cultures might describe illness differently and possibly even experience different symptoms. Culture affects whether people seek help, what types of help they seek, their coping styles and social supports, and how much stigma they attach to mental illness.
- Indigenous cultural safety that fosters a climate where the unique history of Indigenous peoples is recognized and respected.
- Acknowledgement that different cultures view mental health and wellness in different ways.
- Resources that avoid a cultural bias.
- Resources that incorporate stories or testimonials from unique cultural contexts, such as Indigenous, 2SLGBTQQIA+, and Multicultural, for example.
- Resources that acknowledge and avoid colonial bias.
- Resources that acknowledge intersectionality and provide diverse examples.
Evidence-informed practice brings together lived experience and diverse expertise with the best available research. It means using evidence to identify the potential benefits, harms, and costs of any intervention and acknowledging that what works in one context may not be appropriate or feasible in another. Evidence-informed practice acknowledges that evidence and research change over time, and best practices cannot remain static.
- A training program or resource developed using evidence from a range of sources, including expertise from a campus group that has run the program before, findings from a community organization that has run a similar program before, Indigenous perspectives, and a synthesis of academic research.
- Resources that are based on leading practices from current research and delivered in a way that considers the capacity of the individual, on-campus organizations, and the local community.
In this context, inclusivity acknowledges the diversity of lived experiences. Guided by Corey Keyes’s dual-continuum model of mental health and illness, inclusivity ensures we do not exclude any individual who does not identify with one definition of mental health or illness. Inclusivity ensures that resources do not perpetuate mental health stigma, prejudice, or discrimination and invites all individuals to join in the conversation and participate in the work.
- Resources for addressing individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions, individuals showing precursors to a mental health condition, individuals experiencing episodic distress (stress, mood issues, anxiety issues), and individuals looking for information to support another (faculty to student, staff to student, student to student, etc.).
- Resources that incorporate stories or testimonials from a range of experiences with mental health and illness.
- Resources for individuals who are currently well and looking to stay resilient but have possibly experienced mental illness or episodic distress in the past.
Trauma describes the challenging emotional consequences of a distressing event. Traumatic events can be difficult to define because the same event may be more traumatic for one individual than for others (CAMH, n.d.).
Trauma-informed practice is about developing approaches to training resources that avoid re-traumatizing people and incorporate the principles of safety, choice, collaboration, trustworthiness, and empowerment (University of Buffalo, n.d.).
- Reframing the perspective away from “What’s wrong with you?”
- Including “space-making” activities such as group guidelines and debriefing practices to increase participant safety.
- Applying an understanding of trauma theory.
The principles in this chapter were adapted from the Evaluating Sexualized Violence Training and Resources by the Sexualized Violence and Misconduct Training and Resources Working Group, which is under a CC BY-NC 4.0 Licence.