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Preventive and patient-centred: How Concordia is tailoring its mental health services to student realities

Donation from the Rossy Foundation allows university to launch pivotal Embedded Wellness Advisor Program
November 8, 2018
Student Health and Wellbeing Services at Concordia

Canadian postsecondary students have increased their demand for mental-health assistance by an average of 35 per cent over the past five years, according to a survey of 15 universities and colleges.

This increased demand for services has compelled universities to re-examine how they support the mental wellbeing of their students.

Thanks to a donation from the Rossy Foundation to advance the Embedded Wellness Advisor Program, Concordia is poised to set a new standard in campus mental-health services as of fall 2018.

The Embedded Wellness Advisor Program will increase access to care for Concordia students on the university’s Sir George Williams and Loyola campuses.

The program specifically addresses challenges uncovered by a comprehensive review of Student Health and Wellbeing Services at Concordia — including students’ fear of stigma, lack of awareness of their resources and wariness to visit places visibly focused on mental wellbeing.

“We are proactively changing how we think about and deliver care to Concordia students,” says Concordia President Alan Shepard.

“Today’s students face evolving health issues, including rising mental-health needs. We are enhancing our support to provide resources that are diverse, preventive and patient-centred. We are grateful to the Rossy Foundation for providing a critical investment to help us address these challenges.”

Concordia’s made-to-measure solution

Gaya Arasaratnam Gaya Arasaratnam, director of Concordia's Campus Wellness and Support Services

Concordia’s Embedded Wellness Advisor Program will innovate on the drop-in centre concept by offering a wide range of providers and mental health allies across two campuses.

“We look forward to offering students the opportunity to meet service providers and trained peers whom they feel comfortable approaching — directly in their campus environment where they feel most at home,” says Gaya Arasaratnam, director of Concordia's Campus Wellness and Support Services.

The Embedded Wellness Advisor Program builds on successful pilot projects within Concordia’s student residences as well as the Aboriginal Student Resource Centre. These pilots demonstrated that approachability makes a crucial difference to those who need care.

“It’s not uncommon for students to delay turning to health and counselling services until their distress has become particularly acute,” says Arasaratnam. “Thanks to this support from the Rossy Foundation, we hope to reach students in need earlier to provide the right care at the right time and at the right place.”

‘The extra mile in preventive health’

The Rossy Foundation, a Montreal-based private foundation, is a leader in funding initiatives in cancer care, mental health, civic engagement, education and the arts. The organization has publicly called on Canada’s universities and others in the philanthropic sector to partner to improve mental health services for students.

“We are pleased to support Concordia’s ongoing efforts to develop and innovate programming that thoughtfully responds to students’ mental health needs,” says Stephanie Rossy, Vice-Chair of the Rossy Foundation. “We believe the Embedded Wellness Advisor Program reflects an approach that goes the extra mile in providing more preventive and patient-centred service.”

The Rossy Foundation’s contribution is its second major gift to Concordia. Last spring, the organization supported the university’s International Art Hives Network Headquarters — a project focused on building social bonds and connected communities.

Learn more about the $250-million Campaign for Concordia: NEXT-GEN. NOW.


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