Capacity to Connect Offers Essential Support for B.C. Students

A new open educational resource is now available for faculty and staff at post-secondary institutions in B.C., providing them with essential tools to develop their knowledge, confidence, and skills to support student mental health and wellness. 

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

A recent announcement from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training revealed a project BCcampus has been working on for a while. The newly adapted resource, Capacity to Connect: Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Wellness, is a facilitator’s guide to be used with faculty and staff. It is designed to equip them with foundational mental health knowledge and tools so they can better support students who are experiencing mental health and wellness concerns. Vancouver Island University generously provided the original training resource to BCcampus when it was identified through an environmental scan as a resource that would be beneficial for the sector.

Capacity to Connect, now available on the BCcampus wellness and support page, is authored by Gemma Armstrong, Michelle Daoust, Ycha Gil, Albert Seinen, Faye Shedletzky, Jewell Gillies, Barbara Johnston, and Liz Warwick, with input from BCcampus and an advisory group of students, staff, and faculty from post-secondary institutions in B.C. The material is available through a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which allows for free use — even commercially — with attribution.   

Designed to be a facilitated two-hour online or in-person training, the resource offers a comprehensive look at topics related to mental health and wellness for students. Readers will learn about the Three Rs Framework, including how to recognize the signs of distress, how to respond effectively, and how to refer when appropriate. The facilitator’s guide includes a preparation section for implementers, small group and self-reflection activities, practice scenarios, handouts, and a slide presentation to reference during the lesson. A Wellness Wheel allows users to analyze and assess their current dimensions of wellness, complete with tips and suggestions to improve their overall well-being. As well, the guide incorporates a decolonized perspective on mental health and wellness and emphasizes the importance of providing culturally safe spaces for all students.

The Power of Open

The open educational resource (OER) model encourages educators around the world to make use of an openly licensed resource, for free, while allowing them to adapt the materials as appropriate. This means users can adapt or expand on the content to keep the information localized and relevant. 

“This project was built on a foundation laid by the team at Vancouver Island University to serve students in distress,” said Mary Burgess, executive director at BCcampus. “VIU did an excellent job of creating a useful resource, and we relied on this groundwork to help us update the information with input and direction from a wide variety of contributors. We’re excited to see this become available to all post-secondary institutions in B.C., and we look forward to seeing what they’ll do with the materials and how they’ll adapt the guide to serve their students.”

Additional Resources

Other notable resources are available to B.C. staff, students, and faculty to assist with mental health awareness and concerns. Here2Talk, a confidential mental health counselling and referral service, is available 24/7 through a phone, app, or website. As well, the Adapting to COVID-19 website, created by BCcampus with funding from the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, is a robust resource for B.C. residents.

Notable Quotes

“The Capacity to Connect resource is a vital approach to build confidence and capacity in support of student mental health and well-being. We’re grateful to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, and the many system partners who have contributed time, experience, and understanding, for making it possible for us to develop resources that people need, especially during this particularly stressful experience where the lives of students —and faculty— are full of disruption and challenge.”

– Mary Burgess, executive director, BCcampus

“Post-secondary students are dealing with incredible pressures as the school year concludes and may be feeling isolated, anxious, and unsure about the future. The launch of new BCcampus resources will provide vital tools and training to post-secondary faculty and staff so they can better support student mental health now and in the years ahead.”

– Sheila Malcolmson, minister of Mental Health and Addictions

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The feature image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by mali maeder from Pexels