Aug. 4, 2021

UCalgary helps launch Canada’s first national conference on campus mental health

Conference aims to bridge gap between research and mental health practices, including valuable observations from the pandemic
UCalgary atrium

Mental health is top of mind for many working and learning in post-secondary as we prepare to return to campus this fall in varying forms. Exploring the mental toll of the pandemic is on the agenda for the launch of the first nation-wide post-secondary mental health conference, which will be hosted virtually this August.

The inaugural Collaborations for Change conference will run Aug. 12-13, co-hosted by University of Calgary alongside partners from across the country.

The widespread struggles brought on by the pandemic have prompted more Canadians to talk about mental health and well-being, according to Dr. Andrew Szeto, director of the Campus Mental Health Strategy at University of Calgary. He says work still needs to be done to incorporate these lived experiences into how we better support our students.

“Conversations around mental health have become increasingly diverse and open within the public discourse, especially highlighted during COVID-19,” said Szeto. “As academics and practitioners, we must do our best to work together and to represent all diverse experiences in our research and practices. I think we’ve learned a lot during COVID-19 and its impact within post-secondary institutions, and this will be a main focus during the conference.”

Collaborations for change

Collaborations for Change aims to address this need by convening post-secondary students, service professionals, mental health professionals and researchers in meaningful conversations about post-secondary mental health.

Reflective of this collaborative spirit, the event is co-hosted by the University of Calgary, Campus Mental Health Strategy and the Best Practices in Canadian Higher Education Network, with support from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS).

External supporters committed to post-secondary mental health are helping to fuel these conversations intended to spark change and collaboration.

“In order to effectively support the evolving mental health care needs of post-secondary students, we must bridge the gap between research and practice,” says Stephanie Rossy, vice-chair of the Rossy Foundation, lead funder of the event. “To innovate and to adapt mental health services, we must leverage key learnings from the pandemic and emerging best practices. This inaugural conference will help bring us closer to our shared goal of improving the well-being of post-secondary students across the country.”

Similarly, Mary Deacon, chair of Bell Let’s Talk, lead sponsor for Collaborations for Change, notes: “By putting research into action on campuses across the country, we can help ensure no one is left behind and that help is available to all. On our way forward, we all have a role to play. Together we can come out of the pandemic stronger and healthier.”

Speakers include award-winning Harvard-trained physician Dr. Shimi Kang, who will speak on Understanding Mental Health in Times of Stress.” Other key sessions highlight timely discussions and resources like the new National Standard for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students, released less than a year ago. The Mental Health Commission of Canada will host a panel about this standard, which offers an evidence-based set of voluntary guidelines that post-secondary institutions can confidently rely on. A diverse student panel to elevate student voices vital to the conversation will close the conference.

According to Best Practice Network leads Dr. Lina Di Genova, Dr. Rina Gupta, and Dr. Sandra Yuen, “The goal is integrating research and practice through partnerships among and service providers, and students themselves. We want to engage all campus stakeholders to come together to advance campus mental health. We really want to listen to the individuals we want to help and support, before determining a way forward.”

For more information on Collaborations for Change speakers, please see the full list here.

  • All-Access Pass: $50 plus GST
  • All-Access Student Pass: $25 plus GST
  • Passes include one year access to recorded content
  • Register to attend:

This conference is made possible through lead funding from the Rossy Foundation, lead sponsorship from Bell Let’s Talk and is supported in part by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and Health Canada.

The University of Calgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy is a bold commitment to the importance of mental health and well-being of our university family. Our vision is to be a community where we care for each other, learn and talk about mental health and well-being, receive support as needed, and individually and collectively realize our full potential. Learn more about the strategy here