New mental health projects introduced for students and working Canadians

By Reann Fournier, Special to The Record
New mental health projects introduced for students and working Canadians

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, several institutions have released research projects and new guidelines to support the Canadian population and their mental health needs. Two press releases from Oct. 7, outlined a new national standard to guide policies and practices that promote positive student mental health and the positive mental health of working Canadians through the pandemic.
The first of these projects, the National Standard of Canada for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students, will be implemented and upheld by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). According to the press release, it will form the first framework of its kind in the world, and is designed to enhance and expand strategies that are already put in place by Canada’s post-secondary institutions.
This new standard is a voluntary set of guidelines that support five key outcomes; greater awareness and reduced stigma concerning mental health, increased access to students supports, better life and resiliency skills that students can use at school, work, and in their daily lives, healthier and safer institutions, and improved opportunities for student success.
“We recognize that the majority of mental illnesses are first diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 24, when many are in or just out of post-secondary education,” said Louise Braddley, the president and CEO of the MHCC, recognizing the fact that students may be experiencing even higher levels of anxiety and stress through the pandemic.
The release also mentioned that, of the over 2 million people enrolled in Canadian post-secondary institutions, almost 70% are under the age of 24, and that this demographic is at a higher risk of developing or being diagnosed with mental health issues.
“There is a clear and pressing need,” Braddley added. “This new national Standard will help post-secondary institutions address this critical societal issue for our young people.”
Valerie Chort, Vice-President of Corporate Citizenship at RBC commented that the RBC group is proud to be assisting in the development of important resources for students and their mental health. “Our commitment to youth mental well-being is focused on prevention and early intervention programs that help provide young people timely access to knowledge, supports, and care — when and where they need it,”
Both the standard and the project for working Canadians are being supported by RBC Insurance, who are often involved in projects concerning the mental well-being of Canadians, their most recent focusing on employee mental health through COVID-19.
Willingness to access online services among working Canadians, how their employers can help support them, and how they have been managing their personal mental health through the pandemic were all subjects covered by the research, which found a greater need for employers and insurance companies to be there for working Canadians.
The survey found that, through the pandemic, only 58% of women and 67% of men would rank their mental health as good or excellent, and those numbers fall to about 51% when looking at young Canadians. To manage these mental health difficulties, it was found that most Canadians opted for support like spending time with friends and family, getting outside and exercising from their own homes.
Also found was that there was an increase in the likelihood that working Canadians would access virtual care options.
“There’s an uptake in the willingness to use virtual care services for mental health challenges among the working population, but these services can come at a cost to employers who themselves are facing financial challenges as a result of COVID-19,” said Julie Gaudry, Senior Director of Group Insurance at RBC.
In an attempt to alleviate the burden of employers paying for extra services, RBC has introduced a free online program for
their plan members called AbilitiCBT. This is a therapist assisted online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy program whose goal is to provide working Canadians with the help they need.

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