Accessibility in Learning and Teaching

Psychological Health and Safety

by Michael Dick

As of 2013, there are now accepted standards for how mental health and wellbeing can be optimized in given professional and service contexts. In recent years, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has partnered with the Canadian Standards Association and experts in the field to produce free resources that standardize psychological health and safety programs in workplaces and higher education (as of 2020). Though these are not “one size fits all” solutions, they are useful starting points when it comes to developing policies and procedures, all of which must comply with the AODA and with the broader practices of health and safety.

The two most relevant standards are: the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace (CSA-Z1003-13) and, most useful for our purposes, the National Standard of Canada for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students (CSA Z2003:20). Both standards present a set of voluntary guidelines for workplaces and higher education institutions (respectively) that specify requirements for documented and systematic approaches to developing and sustaining a healthy and safe workplace in psychological terms: the management, working, and learning conditions that characterize the higher education environment, especially with regards to the campus climate and institutional culture.


Overview of Psychological Health & Safety Standards for Post-Secondary Institutions

The Standard suggests a systematic approach to integrating psychological health and safety considerations in all phases of post-secondary planning, curriculum development, and teaching, in addition to the development and delivery of student services most commonly associated with mental health (such as counselling supports).

  • Leadership activities (typically led by the university administration):
    • Demonstrating an ongoing and visible commitment to the Standard
    • Dedicating resources to its implementation
    • Overseeing and promoting its implementation
    • Setting measurable objectives and evaluating progress
  • Developing policies and best practices (typically led by working groups)
    • Reviewing existing policies through a mental health and well-being lens
    • Requiring consideration of mental health in future policies and decision making
    • Including student mental health in strategic planning and institutional goal-setting
  • Stakeholder engagement (coordinated by university offices and working groups)
    • Integrating student unions, associations and groups (e.g., equity-seeking groups) in planning, delivery, and evaluation of programs, policies, etc.
    • Sharing results on outcomes with the campus community; seeking feedback
  • Data gathering and evidence-based planning
    • Gather data on psychosocial and institutional factors; consider student needs and the current state of policies, services, resources, programs, and outcomes
  • Strategy development
    • Setting clear and consistent policies regarding accommodations
    • Promoting early recognition of distress and referrals/intervention
    • Offering a range of mental health services
    • Coordinating these services across campus/service areas
    • Increasing mental health literacy and awareness to reduce stigma as a contribution towards a safe, supportive, and inclusive environment
  • Privacy and confidentiality
  • Progress tracking
  • Continuous improvement
What changes will you make to your teaching style to promote psychological health and safety in your course?


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