RRC’s Healthy Minds Healthy College Initiative looks to fill mental health support gaps

By Jonas Cortez

RRC’s Healthy Minds Healthy College Initiative recently launched its five-year strategy to better support students’ mental health.

While there are existing mental health supports, the initiative identified gaps where they could improve, resulting in the release of the Roadmap for Action 2021-25.

The Roadmap for Action 2021-25 serves as a guiding document that will advance the college’s actions with student mental and wellbeing supports and resources for the next five years.

The Roadmap outlines current mental health and wellbeing strategies and ways to add and improve them./Photo supplied by RRC HMHC Initiative/Breanna Sawatsky.

Breanna Sawatsky, RRC’s mental health coordinator, co-chairs the HMHC Steering Committee and played a vital role in creating this new document.

“We have a lot of solid supports in place,” said Sawatsky. “But there are also a lot of areas that we can improve.”

One of the things Sawatzky said she is most excited about on the Roadmap is the student peer support program, which is currently being co-designed alongside students.

“We really know that when students have a say in the design of a program, they are much more likely to use the program and benefit from it,” said Sawatsky.

She urges students to watch for opportunities to engage in the program and its creation.

In November 2020, RRC’s counselling services saw a 20 per cent increase in students accessing help, said Sawatsky. She said these increasing numbers could be a direct result of the pandemic forcing many students to learn from home. 

Mental health posters cover a bulletin board at the RRC Exchange District Campus on Jan. 23, 2018./SAM CORTES

Willow Josephson, a second-year Business Administration student, echoed the importance of mental health and wellbeing while learning online. 

“It can feel lonely, overwhelming, and even toxic working from home,” said the 21-year-old. “To perform their best, students need to put their mental health first.”

Some students’ mental health has improved since switching to online learning and believe this form of education could be a good idea moving forward, said Josephson.

The Roadmap for Action 2021-25 is two years in the making and has undergone many consultations with students, staff, and senior leadership, said Sawatsky.

“I hope that those who are interested take a peek,” said Sawatsky. “I know it could be a daunting document to look through, but I want them to understand that we get mental health is more than your ability to be personally strong.”

Sawatsky said she hopes students look at the new Roadmap to learn about current strategies and resources in place and what’s to come in the future.