Capacity to Connect: Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Wellness
Posted: July 28, 2021 | Updated: August 24, 2021
Author: Gemma Armstrong, Vancouver Island University , Michelle Daoust, Vancouver Island University , Ycha Gil, Vancouver Island University , Albert Seinen, Vancouver Island University , Faye Shedletzky, Vancouver Island University , Jewell Gillies, Barbara Johnston, Liz Warwick
"Capacity to Connect: Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Wellness" includes a facilitator’s guide with handouts and a PowerPoint presentation. This adaptable training resource covers foundational mental health and wellness knowledge for post-secondary faculty and staff and ways to support students in distress. It can be used for two-hour online or in-person training or for self-study.
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Capacity to Connect: Supporting Students’ Mental Health and Wellness by Gemma Armstrong, Vancouver Island University , Michelle Daoust, Vancouver Island University , Ycha Gil, Vancouver Island University , Albert Seinen, Vancouver Island University , Faye Shedletzky, Vancouver Island University , Jewell Gillies, Barbara Johnston, Liz Warwick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.
4.3 / 5
Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary
This text covers very general information on a number of important factors related to mental health. This text is best-suited for first year post-secondary students. The most comprehensive component of the text is the Wellness Wheel which incorporates nine factors of wellness. Each of these nine factors could be worked out into their own separate presentation but this text does well to provide a solid overview. The mental health continuum is a worthy tool when explaining mental health; however, the particular version that this text uses is very minimal and does not include any suggestions on the types of behaviours or actions someone could take in each category to either maintain or return to the Healthy state. While the purpose of the text is to provide material for a brief (2 hour) facilitated presentation of the information, there are a number of areas that require additional information for this text to be considered comprehensive. The section on suicide is especially sparse for a subject matter that is significant – especially in the post-secondary age demographic – and very serious. As someone trained in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and as a SafeTALK facilitator I feel that much more time should be dedicated to a discussion on suicide. Suicide is such a large and impactful issue that it should be discussed separately from other topics related to mental health. The slide deck includes only one slide to address mental health and marginalized groups. The information provided is basic and reads almost as if there was a check list of groups of people to include related to mental health and then a short paragraph written in order to check off each group on the list. Poor mental health that intersects with other areas of marginalization is a sensitive topic and should be given more time or perhaps not be addressed in a short presentation like this. The facilitation instructions are excellent throughout the entire text. There is no index or glossary included.
Comprehensiveness Rating: 3 out of 5
Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased
All of the content in this text is accurate, albeit very general. Additional tools for assessing and monitoring mental health would be a worthwhile consideration. One area, especially, that is in need of some additional context is resilience. Referring to people as resilient has racist undertones in a number of contexts so while resilience is definitely a necessary topic related to mental health, there should be some acknowledgement of how resilience can connect to racism. A really great Canadian podcast that does well to address the issue of resilience and racism is Don’t Call Me Resilient, hosted on CBC by Vinita Srivastava. In 2020 The National Standard of Canada for Mental Health and Well-being for Post-secondary Students was published. This text would do well to incorporate some of the information from that publication. While the text does note marginalized groups, the sole slide and brief paragraphs with very little academic reference material included suggest a bias and lead me to assume a Caucasian heterosexual prepared the text material.
Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement
Generally, this text is up-to-date and relatively easy to update. There is some referenced information from 1999 that is quite outdated. Some other referenced material is dated 2012 and a number of statistics are also from 20 years ago. While these dated materials may still be relevant, finding more recent research would be beneficial for credibility. Only six of the 22 references listed have dates newer than 2019. This text would have increased relevance and longevity if the majority of the referenced texts were less than five years old. Covid-19 statistics will need to be updated as they are rapidly changing. All of the embedded links will need to be checked periodically to ensure they are still active.
Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used
This text is very clear to read and does not use complicated jargon. Pronunciation guides for the Indigenous terms would be helpful. Reflections and other activities are distinct from the rest of the text and the step-by-step facilitation instructions are simple and clear to follow.
Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework
The text is consistent in the framework and style of writing throughout. Sections include a series of mini lectures, useful models or tools, and engaging activities. The first two Sections include well-done Indigenous content; however, the third Section does not. The text does well to maintain consistency with the groups discussed in Section 2 and the practice scenarios in Section 4. Generally, this text reads as if there was only one author.
Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
The text is very easily divisible into smaller reading sections; though, for people who will be facilitating the workshop, reading the entire text at once is more fitting. Each Section is easily read/studied on its own. All references are external and well organized using footnotes rather than endnotes for ease of direct access.
Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion
The text is presented in logical form in terms of the order of the material in each Section. Rather than having a “Maintaining Boundaries” section at the close of the text, self-care for participants in the workshop and the facilitator themselves should be woven throughout to stress the importance of holistic wellbeing, especially when attending and/or presenting on topics pertaining to mental health – most importantly, suicide.
Organization Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader
There are no interface issues with this text. Embedded links are active and the embedded slide decks are functional. The content is easy to navigate using the drop down column.
Interface Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text contains no grammatical errors
There are no grammar or spelling errors of note in this text.
Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds
The text does well to reflect some Indigenous content; however, in terms of more general diversity and inclusion, this text does not meet the criteria well. The small paragraphs on international students, Indigenous students, LGBTQ2S+ students, students with a disability, and racialized students are not comprehensive and do not capture the vast differences that distinct groups of people experience in terms of mental health, support, and stigma. There is no reference to men as a separate group within the text’s mental health discussions despite the fact that men and women experience and cope with mental health in significantly different ways. In terms of suicide, men are three times as likely to attempt and much more likely to complete suicide than women are. The demographic group with the highest rate of suicide is people aged 12-25 which includes the age of the majority of post-secondary students. The resilience section does not address the reality of the connection between resilience and racism, nor do the paragraphs on the different marginalized populations. The “Racialized Students” paragraph might be a good option to address this connection.
Cultural Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5
Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?
I would not recommend this book in its entirety, most specifically due to the content that addresses suicide. All too often, suicide prevention is added on to discussions of mental health and, while suicide is definitely a mental health issue, the seriousness of and stigma surrounding suicide warrants a separate presentation entirely. Additionally, mental health is just one of many intersecting factors that contributes to marginalization. Among the marginalized groups mentioned in the text, "people experiencing mental illness" could be a marginalized group all on its own. When mental illness intersects with sexual orientation, race, culture, ability we have an incredibly complex situation that often requires very specific action and resources. This text does not provide enough information on the intersections of mental health and other protected characteristics.
I would recommend the Wellness Wheel that is included in this text. The wheel is adapted from a much more complicated Indigenous wellness framework and does well to provide a very comprehensive and engaging tool for wellbeing.