Mindful Funding for Mental Health

HR provides insight into mental health grant spending; Student Affairs introduces a student wellness action plan

Tobin Elias (he/him) // Contributor

In August 2022, Capilano University was one of the 14 recipients of the Mindful Campuses mental health grant. The grant was awarded by Mindful Employer Canada, a non-profit organization that develops programs and resources to help workplaces build leadership skills and improve mental health. 

Annually, a limited number of Canadian post-secondary institutions are selected to receive the $2,000 grant. The funds are used to support the psychological well-being of faculty, staff and students. Additionally, each grant recipient must facilitate two workshops before mid-March. The first is a workshop for staff and faculty called Plan for Resilience. The second is for students, called From Surviving to Thriving. These workshops assist in developing healthy coping methods and personal resilience to manage life’s many challenges.

In 2013, Louise Allison was working in programming for Continuing Studies at CapU when the school’s Human Resources Director offered her an assistant role. At the time, she had never considered pursuing human resources as a career. 

A decade later, Allison is now CapU’s HR Manager. 

“The focus [of the HR department] was never on well-being,” she said, thinking back to her first year in the department. “I asked if I could start an employee well-being committee because there was nothing, there were no resources.” 

Ambitions to provide improved mental health care services and activities steadily grew in the HR department, and Allison watched the need for a budget expand just as quickly. This led to the discovery of the Mindful Campuses grant. 

CapU has been a recipient of the grant each year since first applying in 2018. Mindful Employer has even proactively provided the application forms to the school every year since. 

In order to decide how the funds will be allocated and distributed, there are 13 representatives who come together from multiple departments on campus, including Student Affairs, Athletics and Recreation, Communications and Human Resources. “We’ll do a report at the end of the year to say what the funds were being spent on, what we’ve done over that year to support being a mindful campus,” said Allison.

The Mindful Campuses grant is used to support and develop two annual mental health and well-being events on campus: CapU Together Day, which is held in late January, and Well-Being Week, held in October. Well-Being Week, in particular, helps to connect staff, faculty and students in a shared period of mindfulness. This is helped by activities such as therapy dog visits, free massages and mental health webinars, in collaboration with the Capilano Students’ Union.

Although beneficial, the grant only covers a small chunk of CapU’s annual wellness planning. Allison also expressed her frustrations with the role. “Everything moves at glacial speed…so that can be frustrating when we can’t move as fast as I’d like to [in making] positive change,” she said. Despite that, she enjoys making a positive impact and finds it rewarding to be able to bring in new services and make a difference.

One of the key responsibilities held by HR is to provide staff and faculty with resources and tools to support their mental health and well-being. However, apart from the mandatory Mindful Employer workshops, supporting student well-being is a role which falls primarily to Student Affairs. 

Along with events, booths and social media polls, Student Affairs runs the biennial Canadian Campus Well-Being Survey, which provides them with meaningful data regarding student mental health and well-being needs. Ashley Bentley, Student Affairs Manager, shared that data from 2021’s survey identified food security as a key struggle, prompting the creation of a food security program the following year. 

Student Affairs has also been developing a mental health and well-being action plan, which will be implemented this coming May. This plan outlines services and programs that will be offered in the next three to five years and also makes a commitment to ensuring this programming considers the needs of all backgrounds and identities—rather than being based in just colonial, westernized practices. 

“Well-being is a cornerstone of everything we do at CapU,” said Allison, “and we’re trying to, in HR especially, make that one of the building blocks of our people plan that we’re busy building.”

Students who are interested in supporting the development of upcoming well-being and mental health initiatives can reach out to well-being@capilanou.ca.

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