King’s receives $225,000 over three years to fund mental health initiatives
Money from Government of Alberta is part of $2.6 million for Edmonton area universities
The King’s University is taking a new approach to mental health this year with a campaign called “Join the Resilience,” which is starting in October. The university-wide effort is a collaboration between students, Student Life, the campus pastor, and faculty. Now it will benefit from an additional $75,000 per year over the next three years from the Government of Alberta.
“We plan to use the funds to create a community wellness coordinator position and to hire an additional counsellor who will be available to students some evenings,” said Vice President Student Life and Dean of Students Dr. Michael Ferber.
In announcing the grant, which provides $2.6 million over three years for Edmonton-area universities, Minister of Advanced Education Marlin Schmidt said, “We are making these public investments so all students across the province have access to these programs when they need them.”
Ferber has noticed more students seeking help for mental health issues in recent years, including students who struggle with suicidal ideation. It’s a trend across the country: more than 90 percent of students in Alberta who participated in a 2016 National College Health Assessment survey reported feeling overwhelmed, and more than 13 percent said they had considered suicide.
“We have a suicide protocol that we follow if we become aware of a student who is thinking about that,” Ferber said. “All student leaders are trained in QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), and quite a few staff trained in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), which is a higher level of training. They help students struggling with suicidal ideation come up with a plan and some hope."
Overseeing such training and programs is one responsibility of the new community wellness coordinator. That person will help centralize, coordinate, and communicate with students about the various programs and events King’s provides to support students’ mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wellness. The coordinator would also take over and expand the peer support program, which is currently run by counsellor Zachary Berg.
Berg usually has a waitlist to see students; the addition of a wellness coordinator means he will be able to counsel more students.
“Just in the past year, we’ve had a huge increase in the number of students who are accessing mental health resources,” Berg says. He attributes that partly to the university’s work to communicate with students about help that is available and to the lowering of stigmas regarding mental illness.
Centering prayer, life coaching, free counselling, wellness groups, monthly sessions tackling challenging topics – all of these are part of this year’s “Join the Resilience” initiative.
“People need to be able to enter into community life; if I’m enshrouded in anxiety, I can’t participate in community,” Ferber says. “Some people also need help with basic principles of self-organization and self-management. This initiative is aiming to cover all of that.
“We hope to foster an abundant community comprised of students, staff, and faculty practicing self-care and participating in honest and vulnerable relationships of trust. In this way, we hope to fulfil our mission statement to bring renewal and reconciliation to every walk of life.”