Aug. 9, 2023

UCalgary-partnered national conference addresses key topics in mental health and well-being on post-secondary campuses

Collaborations for Change aims to innovate change through partnerships and knowledge translation
University of Calgary files

Unique in the Canadian post-secondary landscape, Collaborations for Change (C4C) is back for another two days of thought-provoking dialogue and knowledge translation. First held in 2021, the intention of this biennial, two-day virtual conference co-hosted by the University of Calgary is to bridge gaps between research and practice towards better mental health outcomes for post-secondary students and communities.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has estimated that 28 per cent of those aged 20-29 experience a mental illness each year, and, during the COVID-19 pandemic, three out of four students reported experiencing negative mental health during their studies. These statistics underline the importance of a conference like C4C.

Conference program

Taking place Aug. 16-17, this year’s conference will feature more than 30 presentations, as well as a keynote speech by Dr. Chika Stacy Oriuwa, MD, of the University of Toronto; a student panel; a panel with Indigenous Elders; an Indigenous counsellor’s panel; and daily meditation breaks.

Oriuwa, a resident doctor in psychiatry, will share her insight into promoting equity, transformative leadership, and changemaking in the health-care and post-secondary worlds.

The conference’s student panel will comprise students from across Canada who will share their educational and mental health journeys and discuss prevailing challenges and potential solutions.

The Indigenous Elders panel and Indigenous counsellors panel, meanwhile, will delve into Indigenous perspective and experiences. The Elder panel will address Indigenous perspectives on wellness, while the counsellor panel will explore what role providers can play in providing relevant and safe spaces for Indigenous students as well as delivering culturally appropriate services.

Conference aims for relevance, accessibility and intersectionality

“Being a student in a post-secondary environment isn’t getting easier,” says Dr. Andrew Szeto, PhD, director of UCalgary’s Campus Mental Health Strategy (CMHS) and professor in the Department of Psychology. “As we come out of the pandemic, we have other stressors to contend with, which can impact our ability to thrive on campus. We’ve developed our conference streams largely in response to what we see going on not only on our campuses, but in the larger contextual factors in our lives, relationships and environments.”

To bring about bold solutions to new and changing challenges, C4C emphasizes collaborative approaches among students, service professionals, mental health providers, community partners and researchers.

This year, there will be five conference streams: Collaboration and Partnerships; Decolonization and Indigenization; Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Accessibility; Impact (on health and well-being); and Systemic Approaches. All themes will be delved into through more than 30 presentation and poster sessions.

The inaugural conference was held in 2021 and is a collaborative effort of three cross-country partners: UCalgary’s CMHS; Best Practices in Canadian Higher Education (BP-Net); and the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS).   

C4C is accessible both in design (due to being offered online) and affordability (registration fees are $100 for general access and $25 for students and anyone facing financial barriers). Sessions will also be recorded and made available for six months. 

“There are good reasons many conferences and academic seminars are going back in-person,” says Szeto. “But we wanted the ability for as many people to join and learn as possible, presenters and attendees, and that means lowering barriers for participation.”

The conference will also again offer a seed grant competition for projects designed to improve student mental health. The one-time grant of $10,000 is intended as initial funding to get a project started or piloted.

For additional information on streams and, presenters, as well as the full conference schedule, visit the Collaboration for Change website.

Register now to take part in the conference.

Collaborations for Change 2023 is made possible through lead funding from The Rossy Foundation, sponsored by RBC Future Launch and supported in part by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and Health Canada. Read more about the 2021 conference here.

UCalgary’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.