3 strategies for raising mental health awareness during orientation

Canadian higher ed institutions, like their American counterparts, are facing a sudden increase in student demand for mental health services.

But as the demand for student counseling services skyrockets, many institutions struggle to keep up. And although young adults list mental health as a top concern, many do not know how to access the resources available to them or feel limited by what is available.

To tackle student anxiety, Ryerson University is restructuring first-year orientation, reports Amara McLaughlin for CBC News. Ryerson’s new orientation program emphasizes mental health and wellness resources, says Akeisha Lari, coordinator of student life programs.

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Here are three ways Ryerson is revamping orientation to tackle student anxiety:

Strategy 1: Encourage students to "strut their stuff"

The institution will debut its first-ever fashion show that focuses on body positivity, reports McLaughlin. To establish a welcoming space for students of all shapes and sizes, volunteers will model pieces from the school's fashion program and local designers, says Lari.

Strategy 2: Recognize stress relief can come in furry packages

Ryerson orientation also offers a space for students to pet dogs and relax, writes McLaughlin. Hopefully, dogs will encourage students to smile and enjoy the moment, says Lari.

Strategy 3: Build a mental health community

First-year students will participate in ThriveRU workshops about mental health and learning strategies, writes McLaughlin. Chinelle McDonald, a fourth-year social work student, cites ThriveRU’s supportive community as key to her academic success during her mother’s illness.

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Ultimately, college is a time for students to figure out who they are, so equipping them with mental health resources now is critical to their future success, says Crookshank. After orientation, he hopes that students will learn that Ryerson has many places to turn to for help (McLaughlin, CBC News, 8/29). 

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