In this issue

  1. Resources for planning life after high school
  2. Community highlight – LIST (Learn, Identify, Support & Treat) Project

Welcome to another edition of the Conversation – a place where we provide information on happenings in the area of youth mental health. Feel free to join the conversation by sharing questions, feedback, photos, or ideas for future editions.

Resources for planning life after high school

The year after high school can be filled with lots of new experiences and challenges. With all this change it’s important to be prepared ahead of time for what the year will bring. Whether you’re planning for post-secondary education, a gap/experiential learning year, or full-time employment – has resources to help you plan for life after high school.

Know Before You Go is intended for Grade 12 students as they plan for life after high school. This life skills resource was developed in partnership with the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and helps students anticipate, identify, and navigate situations like bill payments, study skills, managing relationships, mental and sexual health and more. Know Before You Go is available online in English and French. To help teachers embed the content of the resource into usual classroom lessons in effective and engaging ways, a teacher resource, The Know Before You Go Teacher’s Guide is currently being developed.

As a companion resource to Know Before You GoTransitions provides information for those who have recently graduated from high school or have started  post-secondary education. It equips first-year students with tips on time management, class selection, relationships, sexual activity, addictions, and more. There are also tips on how to stay mentally healthy, strategies for helping yourself through challenging times and recommendations on where you can find additional help if needed. The resource was developed with extensive student feedback and input from other expert organizations including RBC and The Youth Project.

Whatever path you choose after high school, it’s important to be prepared and educate yourself on how to best manage this next stage of life.

Community highlight – LIST (Learn, Identify, Support & Treat) Project

For the past two years we have been working with five post-secondary institutions across the Atlantic provinces to help bring effective mental health education and care to campuses by applying Transitions as the key resource for first-year, post-secondary students. With the help of a 3-year grant from Medavie Blue Cross (formerly the Medavie Health Foundation) totaling $607,500, the roll-out of this work has been taking place since early 2017.

This work includes 3-tier interventions. It provides primary care training for student health care providers to diagnose and treat students needing care and further trains faculty members in the early identification of students in need of help accessing appropriate care. The core component of the project is to engage students in applying the Transitions resource to help navigate campus life, maintain good mental health, build resilience and deal with challenges they may face in their first year.

The participating institutions include Mount Saint Vincent University, Saint Mary’s University, Saint Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia Community College and Holland College, with over 2,000 students involved in the project. Preliminary research findings have demonstrated very positive impact of applying Transitions and there has been a significant increase in mental health literacy with students who engaged with the resource in their first year.

“The preliminary data analysis from 500 students who participated in the project shows the overall improvement in mental health knowledge among students. In particular, the data show a better understanding on how to obtain and maintain positive mental health, and understanding mental disorders and their treatments,” says Dr. Michael Zhang who led the research team at Saint Mary’s University.

A promising result given most students are faced with several challenges and opportunities during this transitional period of their life.

“In the context of college, the new freedoms, responsibilities, challenges, and temptations that young adults enter into as they move to post-secondary studies may be too much and too fast for some students. It may also be the first time they have had to deal with such a variety of situations within a relatively narrow time frame. Most students will manage to navigate these waters without significant issues, but the additional informational support provided by increased mental health literacy can only enhance their capacity to cope,” says Greg McKenna, primary investigator at Holland College.

Providing students with the resource as early into their first year as possible enables them with practical life skills that will stay with them long after university.

Elizabeth Yeo is the student services coordinator at Nova Scotia Community College and she feels when students are able to engage with the material they build resilience and help-seeking is improved.

“Open, factual discussion reduces the stigma often associated with mental health and this, paired with an understanding of the supports and services available, increases the likelihood of students seeking help and finding support. Engaging with mental health literacy material also creates a way to promote positive mental health behavior among students and increase their resiliency.”

The project will continue until September 2019 and full data reports will be available by that time.