Mental health awareness is becoming increasingly more accessible and at Red Deer College the Student Association is working hard to include their peer group in the movement.
RDC is in its second year of offering a student-led mental health initiative on campus thanks to grant funding from the Alberta government. The Students’ Association (SA) at RDC is part of a provincial lobby group known as the Alberta Students Executive Council (ASEC) that recognized the need for increased mental health services.
The group lobbied the Alberta government and in response was given a grant through a program known as Alberta Campus Mental Health Innovation that allowed them three year’s worth of funding to promote mental health and engage the students in awareness, service, discussions and events.
“We really are passionate about this topic because students are already facing academic stress and financial stress. We believe that the message of the importance of mental health is even stronger when it’s sent from your peers,” said Bailey Daines, president of the RDC Students’ Association.
“We hope to one, reduce stigma surrounding mental health and two, bring awareness to available mental health services within the school and the community.”
The mental health committee is made up of students who wish to engage their peers in events and talks to promote the services they can access during times of high stress and anxiety.
The committee has tried to engage the students through fun events such as a puppy room, which several other institutions in Alberta including SAIT Polytechnic and Mount Royal University have implemented as well. The idea is that during times of high stress, students can play with the furry friends and reduce some anxiety through a fun activity.
“We create talk spaces known as ‘crunch time’. The mental health committee and students get together over coffee and discuss how to access services and programs available for mental health wellness at the school and in the community,” said Daines.
She said that the committee constantly looks for innovative ways to engage their peers.
“We’re always looking at how we can reach out to students and engage them in these types of initiatives. We do everything from games nights to awareness of physical health importance.”
One of the things RDC is offering through the program is a fully subsidized course for mental health first aid training. Daines explained that there is flexibility with the grant funds and that is one of the ways they utilized them.
Currently, the grant only has one more year of funding as it was a pilot program for last year. Daines said that there has been an incredible amount of positive response from students who have accessed the resource, and that she hopes that with the help of RDC, community stakeholders and the government, they can increase the longevity of the project.
The Student Mental Health Association acts as a liaison to professional services within the school and the community. Students can reach out to the Students’ Association building for direction on how to address their mental health needs, as well as the need for general wellbeing.