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Jack.org’s Campus Assessment Tool 2018-2019

Download the full report

Background
The Campus Assessment Tool (CAT) is a five-part, youth-led participatory research tool designed to support the advocacy work of student-run Jack Chapters. Ten post-secondary chapters across Canada were invited to take part in this pilot project, which launched in December 2018.

 

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The CAT guides young people through a process of understanding how their campus communities serve, protect, and promote youth mental health. 

Though modest in the conclusions made nationally, results of this CAT pilot offer seminal insight on the health supports and services offered on post-secondary campuses across the country. The tool is made up of directives and surveys to gauge the range of services offered on campus, the accessibility of these services, and student satisfaction with what is offered. In addition to assessing the mental health supports on campus, the tool asks broader questions of how campuses support and promote positive mental health. To this end, the tool seeks to understand how specific upstream factors may prevent or enable people from accessing services, or how policies and programs create or prevent mental health struggle in the first place.
 

The Process
Jack Chapters have been advocating for their peers’ mental health for years, some have realized that there are limitations to this form of peer-to-peer advocacy. On their own, young people can educate their peers about mental health or encourage help seeking during times of struggle, but they can do little to change the realities of service wait times or academic curriculums, and for this reason they need to engage adult decision makers in their communities. 

To prepare them for this engagement, Jack.org co-developed the CAT with young people in our network. Based on CAT results, young people can advocate to address gaps and highlight strengths in the mental health system. The tool has since been reviewed by leading experts in the youth mental health space, revised based on recommendations, and championed by industry experts in post-secondary institutions. 


The CAT is made up of five separate sections:

1) Campus Checklist

  • Q: What mental health services, programs, and policy exist on campus?
  • CAT teams answer Q through consulting online resources and liaising with staff on campus
  • Answers are Y/N

2) Diverse Service Availability

  • Q: How do services on campus cater to specific student populations?
  • CAT teams answer Q through consulting online resources and liaising with staff on campus
  • Answers are Y/N, open ended

3) Quality & Satisfaction

  • Q: How satisfied are students with the quality of services on campus?
  • CAT teams answer Q by surveying students on campus
  • Responses are solicited on 1-5 likert scales and aggregate numbers are reported 

4) Barriers & Accessibility

  • Q: What barriers may exist to accessing services on campus?
  • CAT teams answer Q by surveying students on campus
  • Responses are solicited on 1-5 likert scales and aggregate numbers are reported
5) Health Promoting Environment
 
  • Q: What policies or programs exist to promote student mental health on campus?
  • CAT teams answer Q through consulting online resources and liaising with staff on campus
  • Answers are Y/N, open ended
  

Key Findings
 

  1. Not all counselling centres are created equal.

Does your campus have a counselling centre?

Yes

No

# of pilot schools:

10

0

 

While all schools taking part in the pilot have counselling centres, not all are staffed by registered psychologists who are employed purely for the purpose of supporting student mental health. All ten counselling centres are open and active on weekdays during regular business hours, none are open on weekends, and six of the ten  are open during academic breaks with reduced hours.
 

2. Peer support programs fall in and out of favour.

Does your campus have a peer support program?

Yes

No

# of pilot schools:

6

4

 

Four of the pilot schools do not have peer support programs, but two of these four schools plan to launch peer support programs shortly, and all schools have had peer support programs in the past. Peer support programs were disbanded as a result of funding cuts and diminishing use. 
 

3. Early alert systems are often implemented but not utilized.

Does your campus have an early alert system?

Yes

No

# of pilot schools:

6

4


Six campuses have an early alert program, whereby a student who is struggling with their mental health (e.g. if said student missed several classes or was struggling academically) may be identified by faculty, staff, and/or peers. In some cases, an emergency contact (e.g. parent or guardian) may be notified. 

Often these systems are not implemented as planned due to complacency or competing stakeholder priorities.


4. Mental health coverage varies across university health insurance plans.

Are mental health services covered by your campus’ student health care plan?

Yes

No

# of pilot schools:

9

1 


All schools, except Aurora College, cover mental health services under their undergraduate student health care plan. In comparing schools that offer a student health care plan, coverage rates range between 80% up to $500/year and 100% up to $1000/year for psychological and counselling services. 
 

Undergraduate Student Health Plan Coverage for Mental Health

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*Percent (%) covered per session for the University of Toronto, Mississauga was calculated using the suggested hourly rate ($225/hour) for psychological services, determined by the Ontario Psychological Association. 

 

5. Long waitlists are a barrier to accessing on-campus counselling services.

Is there a wait list to access counselling services on campus?

Yes

No

# of pilot schools:

9

1

 

Most students who want to access services on campuses face wait times that range from 1 to 8 weeks, and the average wait time to access services on a CAT campus was 4 weeks. 



6. Not all equity-seeking groups are served with resources to meet their specific needs. 

Does your campus have resources for specific equity-seeking groups?

     Yes

      No

# of pilot schools with Indigenous-specific mental health resources: 

        5

        5

# of pilot schools with LGBTQ2S+-specific mental health resources:

        3

        7

# of pilot schools with women-specific mental health resources:

        0

      10

# of pilot schools with International student-specific mental health resources:

        5

        5

# of pilot schools with resources to serve students with disabilities:

      10

        0

 


7. Students are more aware of services than they are comfortable seeking them.

Across all pilot schools, the majority (63.6%) of student respondents were aware of their school’s mental health resources, but fewer (42.9%) felt comfortable seeking these resources. Promotion of available mental health services by the school or through advocacy groups on campus (including Jack Chapters) has been useful in making students aware of where they can go if they are struggling with their mental health, but have done little to improve comfort in seeking these resources.
 

8. Students feel that services do not always meet their needs, and that there are serious barriers to accessing these services.

Almost half of all students surveyed (48.4%) believed that mental health services at their school were not adequate and would not meet their needs. A concomitant number of students (48.6%) felt a need to seek services outside of campus. Importantly, two thirds of students surveyed (61.2%) felt as though there were barriers to accessing mental health services on campus. 4/9 CAT pilot Chapters cited long wait times as the greatest barrier to help seeking. Other barriers included: limited hours of counselling centre availability, poor availability of consistent, ongoing support, and difficulty making appointments over the phone/online.  
 

9. Stigma reduction initiatives are working but require sustained effort and novel approaches.

While the majority of young people surveyed don't hold stigmatized views of mental health, mental illness, or help seeking themselves, many of them still believe their peers hold these views. For example, when asked if they personally would think differently of a friend if they knew they sought mental health support, a very small minority (6.1%) of students agreed, but when asked if they feel fellow students would think differently of them if they knew they sought mental health support, far more (41.2%) agreed.

10. Mandated training changes student perception of stigma among faculty and staff.

Overall, almost half (48.9%) of all students surveyed agreed that faculty and/or staff would think differently of them if they knew they sought mental health support. However, when comparing institutions where faculty and/or staff receive mandated mental health training to institutions where such mandates don't exist, the value of basic mental health training becomes clear. On campuses where training was mandated, fewer students (46.9%) felt that faculty and/or staff would think differently of them if they sought mental health support. On campuses where training was not mandated, more students (54.9%) felt that professors and/or staff would think differently of them for seeking help when they needed it.  
 

11. All schools are working to address the upstream determinants of health.

Question:

Yes

No

Does your school offer financial assistance?

9

1

Does your school have a free food program/food bank?

10

0

Does your school have covered bus fare?

6

4

Does your school offer on-campus jobs?

10

0

 

Financial stress, food insecurity, and precarious housing are all determinants of poor mental health. To address these determinants, institutions offer a suite of policies and programs. For example, nine out of ten CAT pilot Chapter schools offer some form of financial assistance to their students. 
 

Discussion
This year's CAT pilot demonstrated an important proof of concept: with the right tools and appropriate support, young people are capable of carrying out an intensive research process whereby they assess how campus communities serve, protect, and promote positive mental health. Moving forward, Jack.org will seek to replicate this success in campuses across Canada. 

Results of the CAT were used to inform the Youth Voice Report, Jack.org’s annual policy platform. In a key recommendation, the Youth Voice Report describes how postsecondary institutions can promote mental health on campus by managing crisis, offering a broad range of mental health resources, identifying and responding to struggle early, and applying a mental health lens to all policies, programs, and practices. We invite you to read the full Youth Voice Report to help make sense of what Campus Assessment Tool results mean for decision makers in campus communities at www.jack.org/yvr