New Federally Funded Mental Health Program to Support Student Success and Well-being 

On February 21, The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced a new program to help art and design students develop skills to support and maintain their mental health and well-being.

Mindful Campus is being led by OCAD University in partnership with us at the Centre for Mindfulness Studies and a collaborative network of post-secondary art and design schools and faculties, which include Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (NSCAD) University, OCAD University, Seneca’s School of Creative Arts and Animation and York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD).

The initiative has received a grant of close to $4 million from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Government of Canada, through the program Supporting the Mental Health of Those Most Impacted by COVID.

“Our government recognizes that the pandemic has added greatly to the pre-existing mental health and substance use challenges that many students and young people face. This is especially true for marginalized and racialized young adults. Today’s funding to the Mindful Campus Initiative will empower students at OCAD University and four additional campuses across Canada to learn healthy coping skills, build resilience and support one other as we continue to adapt to challenging and evolving times,” said The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Associate Minister of Health.

“The Mindful Campus Initiative is a timely and very important step in ensuring that well-being and mental health is a priority for our next-generation of creative artists, designers and leaders to thrive. We thank the Public Health Agency of Canada for their support in funding this critical initiative,” said Barry Patterson, Executive Director of the Centre for Mindfulness Studies. “In collaboration with OCAD U, we look forward to adapting and delivering mindfulness-based trainings and practices, grounded in evidence-based research, to provide students with essential tools and skills to support their mental well-being.”

About Mindful Campus

Mindful Campus is designed to help emerging creatives develop skills and techniques that will support them in flourishing and adapting within today’s challenging times. As the mental health collaborator for the Mindful Campus, the Centre will design and deliver the initiative’s emotional health and well-being programs. This includes a video series introducing mindfulness, a live in-person and online mindfulness program, practice support sessions, peer, and staff training. The program is modelled on mindfulness-based interventions for young adults and these courses are being adapted to emphasize the development of coping and resilience skills specifically for art and design students.

The program is being piloted at OCAD U in March and will roll-out at the partner post-secondary education institutions this fall.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, students continue to face an uncertain world with climate change, rising housing costs and inflation and current political conflicts. Mindful Campus is designed to help students develop resilience and coping skills to meet life’s challenging and stressful experiences so they can truly flourish. We are very grateful to the Public Health Agency of Canada for investing in the health and well-being of students and to our partners in supporting this program,” said Deanne Fisher, Vice-Provost, Students & International at OCAD University.

Quotes from Post-Secondary Partners

“With the toll that the last few years have taken on students, the Mindful Campus Initiative will provide our Fine Arts students with evidence-based strategies to build-out community, reduce stress and inspire their creativity,” says Annie Gérin, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University.

“While the pandemic created very real emotional, financial and logistical challenges for all post-secondary students, the makers in art and design schools faced the unique pressures of losing their studio experience and the creative influences of their peers,” says Dr. Peggy Shannon, President of NSCAD University. “On behalf of everyone at NSCAD, I am thrilled that the Public Health Agency of Canada is supporting the Mindful Campus Initiative to help create an environment in which emerging creative artists and designers, including those who are Indigenous, Black and People of Colour, can flourish. As people cope with isolation by engaging culture, we know that more than ever the world needs art and design, and we all need to support our students’ resilience so they can support our collective wellness.”

“Seneca is grateful to the federal government and joins our academic partners in supporting the Mindful Campus Initiative. The pandemic exposed in stark relief the mental health issues being experienced by too many students in higher education. The project’s engaging resources and inclusive activities will be a great benefit to Seneca students,” says David Agnew, President of Seneca.

“York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design focuses on the whole person. We provide students with the tools needed to support their physical and mental well-being. Students must develop their technique alongside wellness strategies to reach and sustain their creative potential,” says Dr. Sarah Bay-Cheng, Dean of the York University School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD). “We are pleased to partner with OCAD U on this investment that brings wellness into the core of our curriculums. We look forward to developing existing initiatives and expanding our wellness mandate into new facets of the School.”

To read the Public Health Agency of Canada’s News Release, click here.


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