Post-secondary students are among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, with social isolation, virtual learning challenges, job insecurity, and financial hardship having a profound impact on their mental health and well-being. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than half of Canadians aged 18-24 (61%) say their mental health has declined.
To support post-secondary students during this challenging time, today, Jenica Atwin, Member of Parliament for Fredericton, announced on behalf of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, an investment of $2 million for a three-year Campus Peer Support pilot project led by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).
Funding for this project comes from previous investments in mental health, which were approved in May 2021, and the CMHA is now ready to implement the pilot program on five Canadian campuses, in partnership with local CMHA offices.
The Campus Peer Support pilot project’s aim is to provide post-secondary students with the tools they need to support each other’s well-being. To achieve this, CMHA will work closely with the institutions to train and empower students who have lived and living experience of mental health or substance use to support fellow students facing similar issues.
The innovative pilot project will provide in-person and virtual training as well as certification to 100 student peer supporters across five sites. Peer supporters will work in tandem with counselling and professional services on campus and help connect students to supports available in the wider community and via their local CMHA. The training materials will be created with students, and peer trainers will be taught to deliver the curriculum so that the project can continue beyond the pilot phase.
“We know that post-secondary students are among those hit hardest by the pandemic – with social isolation, remote learning and economic insecurity becoming part of their everyday life. Our government’s support to the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Campus Peer Support pilot project will be a valuable addition to existing mental health services already offered to students, and will empower them to support each other by creating a sense of community and belonging on campuses across the country.”
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
“The Campus Peer Support pilot project provides opportunities for post-secondary students to help each other navigate mental health and substance use challenges. It can be extremely valuable to receive support from someone with lived and living experience.”
Member of Parliament, Fredericton, NB
“With the pandemic, the already intense pressures on students have become extreme, at a time when their support networks have also been eroded. The Canadian Mental Health Association thanks the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions for funding this important peer support pilot project on Canadian post-secondary campuses. This Mental Health Week has been about empathy and how it can transform lives. Peer support is, in fact, empathy in action. When a young person is struggling, having the support of someone who has been there can change – and even save – that person’s life.”
National CEO, Canadian Mental Health Association
“The University of New Brunswick is proud to be involved in the Campus Peer Support pilot program, strengthening our capacity to support student mental health and well-being. Student support services are a key priority for UNB and through this program; we can empower students to utilize their unique abilities and experiences to support each other.”
Dr. Paul Mazerolle
President and Vice-Chancellor, University of New Brunswick