Preparing for the Session

To download the PowerPoint slide deck and handouts that accompany this Facilitator’s Guide, please see the Introduction.

Key Learning Points

This training opens up the conversation about mental health to increase understanding and reduce negative stigma surrounding mental illness. Key learning points of the training include the following:

  • We all have a role to play in supporting our own and each other’s mental health.
  • We can learn ways to foster and maintain good mental health.
  • It’s important to understand the differences between mental health, mental distress, mental health problems, and mental illness.
  • International students and students who are marginalized and/or racialized may face more barriers to accessing mental health supports.
  • Talking openly about mental health and mental illness as well as being thoughtful about the language we use helps destigmatize mental illness.
  • There are many strategies for coping with stress.
  • We can learn and model effective ways to seek support for our own mental health or mental illness.

Practical Considerations for In-Person and Online Sessions

To prepare to facilitate this workshop, consider the following:

  • Read through the Facilitator’s Guide and handouts to familiarize yourself with the content. You may want to download and print the guide as a PDF file.
  • Download the slide deck and make any needed modifications.
  • Prepare to give a territory acknowledgement to open the session. Also consider ways in which to Indigenize the content. (See Indigenous Considerations.)
  • Determine how you will share handouts and other resources. You may want to print out and share during in-person sessions and share the links in the chat for online sessions. You may want to share Handout 1: Wellness Wheel with students ahead of the session and ask that they review it beforehand. Handout 3: Supporting Other Students: Mental Health Resources is a fillable PDF so you can customize it with your institution’s contact information prior to the session.
  • Think about which scenarios you want students to discuss. Handout 4.1 has just the scenarios (no responses); Handout 4 has the scenarios with suggested responses. There are 11 scenarios to choose from, but it’s unlikely you’ll have time to cover them all.
  • There are two videos you may want to bookmark (and have ready to play in a browser) prior to offering the session: Why Stress is Good for You (Scientific American ) (2:32 min.) and Brené Brown on Empathy  (2:53 min.)
  • Think about 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.
  • Add relevant examples and additional insights that are based on your own experience or that are relevant to the student population at your institution.
  • Think about the international student populations at your institution. Are there specific cultural differences to consider? For example, in some cultures, such as South Asian cultures, mental illness is still very much stigmatized, and students may be uncomfortable talking about it. A great resource about the mental health of South Asian students is The Pardesi Project. Keep in mind that the mental health words we use in English may not exist in other languages as mental health is rarely discussed in some cultures.
  • Consider providing participants with group guidelines prior to the session so people can prepare and create guidelines together. This will save time during the session. (See Group Guidelines for more information.)

Know the Procedures and Contacts at Your Campus and in Your Community

  • Become familiar with who to notify at your campus if a student is concerned about another student. For example, does the student contact counselling services? If they’re a residence assistant or teaching assistant do they contact their supervisor? Is there an alert form they should fill out? Who do they contact in an emergency? The procedures may vary from institution to institution.
  • Consider which resources, procedures, or policies at your institution are relevant to helping students who need assistance.
  • Find out what on-campus and community resources are available that support student mental health, or create your own contacts sheet to share with participants (or have a website ready for viewing on-screen).

Preparing for an In-Person Session

You will need the following:

  • Laptop
  • Projector
  • Flipchart or whiteboard and markers
  • Handouts
  • Handout from your institution with contact information for student supports on campus

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 asking 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.

Working in small groups online

If your video-conferencing software allows you to create breakout rooms, you can have people work together in smaller groups. Take some time before the session to get comfortable with the breakout room set-up process. It can be helpful to have someone assist you with setting up the breakout rooms, so you can facilitate the session while they handle the technical issues.

Breakout rooms will work well for discussing the scenarios, but you will want to do some advance preparation. It may be easiest to put the scenarios in the chat, so have the scenarios ready to add to the chat prior to the session. During the session, you can then assign each group to a specific breakout room to discuss the different scenarios. Alternatively, you could move people into breakout rooms and then visit each room to verbally provide a scenario to each group.

Text Attributions

  • This chapter by Barbara Johnston and Liz Warwick is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 License.


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Starting A Conversation About Mental Health: Foundational Training for Students Copyright © 2021 by UBC Student Health and Wellbeing Staff; Jewell Gillies; Barbara Johnston; Liz Warwick; Dagmar Devine; Jenny Guild; Arica Hsu; Hamza Islam; Mehakpreet Kaur; Malena Mokhovikova; Jackson Mackenzie Nicholls; and Calla Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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