Maxine Myre | June 5, 2014
Overwhelming amounts of schoolwork.
Difficulty balancing school, a job, family, and friends.
Pressure to succeed academically.
These are only a few of the factors that can contribute to stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health struggles for students.
Kathleen Moore, a PhD student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto, researches how technology can be used to provide information about mental health, as well as support for students with mental health difficulties.
Post-secondary students already have access to a variety of face-to-face options for information and support. But Moore sees tremendous opportunity to supplement counselling and peer-support services with technology, especially for populations that are not comfortable using face-to-face options.
“As an example, for graduate students specifically, the stigma surrounding mental health and the possibility of seeing some of [their] students in the [counselling] office may cause them to not use those types of resources,” Moore says.
Digital strategies look different at every institution. In a poster presentation given at Congress 2014, Moore described some initiatives that are currently in place or developing at universities in Ontario.
Several universities, for instance, have modified their website’s homepage to make mental health resources easily available to students, staff, and faculty.
Another focus has been the development of online learning modules, which participants can work through in order to gain more knowledge surrounding mental health and available support.
“Mindsight,”developed by Wendy Stanyon, an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, is an online learning module that aims to reduce stigma by promoting awareness and understanding of mental health. The module also provides resources and coping strategies for people facing mental health challenges. Online learning modules at the University of Toronto and Queen’s University are providing similar services.
Whether it’s using Twitter to provide information about available counseling hours, or having an online peer-support group, social media is also providing new, relatable avenues for students.
Naturally, mobile devices are also playing an increasingly important role.
Several apps launched about mental health do things such as help people chart moods, manage coping skills, or connect to sources of support. “It will be interesting to me to see whether that’s something a school might tap into in the future,” says Moore.
The next steps are to determine if students are aware that these online resources exist and to see if they are being used effectively.
“It’s a constantly changing area. There’s new stuff coming out all the time,” says Moore.
For more information about e-mental health, check out these resources:
- “E-Mental Health in Canada: Transforming the Mental Health System Using Technology” – The Mental Health Commission of Canada
- “e-Mental Health” – The Mental Health Commission of Canada
- And remember that if you or someone you know may be experiencing a mental health-related issue, help is also available on your campus.
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