Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Helping students succeed: StFX receives $100,000 grant from Bell Let’s Talk to launch student mental health program

January 24th, 2023
L-r, Sudents' Union Vice President, External, Ben Fairhurst and StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin

It was a good news day at StFX on Jan. 24, 2023 when it was announced the university has received a $100,000 grant from the Bell Let’s Talk Post-Secondary Fund to launch its Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Accessibility (EDIA) Peer Mentoring program designed to provide peer-to-peer student mental health support.

Working within StFX’s Bloomfield Hub—a campus space available after hours specifically designated to support students’ well-being—the EDIA Peer Mentors will provide peer-to-peer prevention, outreach and engagement with students to grow access to, and awareness of, existing mental health and other supports within the StFX Student Care Continuum. EDIA peer mentors will bring real live experience and serve to help connect with culturally relevant programming to better meet the needs of historically underserved students.

“Today, we are taking an important step forward in realizing our vision of a whole campus approach to all students flourishing,” StFX Vice President Students Elizabeth Yeo said during the announcement, which kicked off StFX’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Strengthening Resilience.

The announcement, held in the Frank McKenna Centre, also celebrated StFX’s new Student Experience and Opportunity Plan, which presents a “whole campus” approach to campus success, and preceded a panel discussion on Supporting Students Wholistically.

StFX President Dr. Andy Hakin joined Ms. Yeo in sharing how grateful StFX is to be able to offer these supports and be here to help support student well-being. 

“StFX sincerely appreciates Bell Canada for providing resources that will support the Bloomfield Hub and our efforts to eliminate equity gaps and work to ensure that all students have the information and support they need to flourish at X,” Dr. Hakin said.

“That’s what we want for all our students.”

Dr. Hakin says StFX is trying to eliminate inequities and to build communities that are strong and support each other. 

“The Hub approach is built on a philosophy of community and personal connection. This grant will help StFX to build on this approach to move StFX firmly in the direction that supports our new strategic plan of ‘Building our University the Way it is Meant to Be.’ On behalf of the StFX community, thank you, Bell Canada for your ongoing support.”

It means so much to the students who will benefit, he said. 

StFX is one of 10 post-secondary schools in the country receiving a Bell Let’s Talk grant to support initiatives that align with the National Standard of Canada for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students.

“Bell Let’s Talk is pleased to provide a $100,000 Post-Secondary Fund grant for a peer support program for the students at StFX. Bell Let’s Talk is committed to continuing to support student mental health and well-being to create positive change for mental health,” said Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let’s Talk.

Bell Canada Senior Manager of Community Investment Dawn Boylan, who couldn’t be in attendance, sent greetings via a video. Incredible work is taking place at StFX, she said, and Bell is pleased to support the work, building off the success of the Bloomfield Hub, which was piloted in 2021 and evolved from research made possible by the Bell Kickoff Grant.

Ms. Yeo says having this support is part of students being successful during their university career as many students need help overcoming nonacademic barriers. 

“Academic preparation, financing, food and housing, transportation and other basic needs have long been recognized as key to student success. Increasingly, we recognize the important and interconnected contributions of student mental health, wellness, connection, belonging and engagement in helping students to flourish at university.”

PANEL DISCUSSION

Moderator and panelists included, l-r, Margie McKinnon, StFX Director of Health, Counselling and Accessible Learning; Bethany Theuerkauf, Student Wellness Program Coordinator; Robert Upshaw, Educational Consultant and Co-Chair, President’s Action Committee on Anti-Racism; Heather Blackburn, Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Advocate; and Dr. Erin Austen, Chair, Department of Psychology.

Following the announcement, the event continued with a panel discussion “Supporting Students Wholistically.

Margie McKinnon, StFX Director of Health, Counselling and Accessible Learning, who was introduced as a tireless champion for student mental health and wellness at StFX, introduced and moderated the panel. 

StFX leaders in this work shared how they bring a whole campus, whole person approach to their work. Panelists included Bethany Theuerkauf, Student Wellness Program Coordinator; Robert Upshaw, Educational Consultant and Co-Chair, President’s Action Committee on Anti-Racism; Heather Blackburn, Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Advocate; and Dr. Erin Austen, Chair, Department of Psychology.

Through their presentations and a question and answer period, attendees were able to enhance their understanding of what is meant by a whole campus, whole student approach to all students flourishing. 

Panelists discussed how supportive relationships and meaningful learning experiences are vital to students’ long-term well-being. 

Mental Health Awareness Week events continue all week at StFX. Bell Let’s Talk Day is January 25, 2023. 

 

 

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