Common Mental Health Conditions
by Catherine Jenkins
The Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) Campus Mental Health Inventory, suggests that student learning is impacted by their mental health, which is in turn impacted by a given institution’s policies, practices, and culture. CACUSS suggests that the focus of post-secondary institutions tends to be on identifying and treating psychopathology, rather than on supporting students more holistically, recognizing the emotional, cultural, sociopolitical, and economic factors that impact an individual’s mental health. Offering support to students before mental health problems present helps build resilience, and better prepare young adults for life after graduation. CACUSS also states that: “Faculty is on the front lines” and should have adequate training in “alternative ways of assessing students’ academic performance…” Recognizing that most instructors are not trained mental health practitioners, the purpose of this course is to help instructors develop alternative assessment strategies using creative pedagogy to holistically support their students.
“It’s not just a matter of having the supports available in the student support centre. It’s a matter of teaching every teacher not to judge too quickly… you don’t need to be the psychology professor to just treat every student with utmost respect.”
Dianne Acey, Psychologist and retired College Instructor
According to The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) although anxiety is a common experience, it is usually brief and context-specific, for instance during exam period or end of term when multiple assignments may be due. Anxiety Disorders are suggested when symptoms of anxiety persist or are severe. Anxiety can be broken down into several subcategories, including general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, panic disorder and others. Acute feelings of irrational fear can negatively impact people’s abilities to live their best lives, as well as impacting cognitive, social, or daily activities (CAMH, 2021).
Depression can be defined as: “a complex mood disorder caused by various factors, including genetic predisposition, personality, stress and brain chemistry” (CAMH, 2021). Although many Canadians experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the dark winter months, depression moves beyond sadness, exhibiting an extreme sense of despair, lasting for weeks or months. Depression rates are higher in women, although men are four times more likely to commit suicide (CAMH, 2021).