Funding for Red Deer College designated for mental health initiatives

By Kirsten Dennis
September 5, 2017 - 3:10pm

Red Deer College is getting $205,000 per year for the next three years from the province to address mental health issues.

The funding is to be used specifically for initiatives at RDC to assist students dealing with stress, depression, helplessness and more.

Marlin Schmidt, Minister of Advanced Education, made the announcement at the college Tuesday, saying the goal is to ensure that all students have the resources to reach their full potential.

“I want every student here at Red Deer College to have access to the mental health supports that they need if and when they need to. We know these supports make a difference in the lives of post-secondary students,” said Schmidt.

Schmidt said the government heard from students across the province making the urgent need for proper mental health supports evident, and those students have been heard and now the government is taking action.

“We know that this public investment is vital to help students at Red Deer College succeed, and when students succeed this makes life better for all Albertans.”

He added that beyond the funding specific to RDC, the Government of Alberta is providing funds to Healthy Campus Alberta to ensure that post-secondary institutions have a means by which to share information including best-practices.

In addition to the funding to Red Deer College announced Wednesday, Schmidt said there will be an additional $400,000 from the government specifically designated to assist indigenous learners in the province. He added the government will take some time to analyze the specific needs and develop strategies for this funding.

“This is a significant increase in investments that we are making as a province in the mental health supports that are available here for students at Red Deer College.”

Students who experience anxiety, depression, loneliness, helplessness and stress will have more resources available to them to help deal with those issues as they come up. Schmidt said this could include things like increased counselling hours, increased levels of peer support, and access to servies.

“[We are] setting up a provincial hotline for students as well so that regardless of where they are or the time of day there will be someone there to help them.”

Schmidt said the hotline is partially in response to the knowledge that students may not come forward for help if they’re unaware of the programs or services offered to assist them in whatever mental health issue they are facing.

“We are taking great steps forward to make sure the resources are there for them if they need it.”

Red Deer College student association president, William Baliko, said the funding will be nothing short of amazing and that the changes are things they’ve been working towards for a while.

“The Student Association offers a lot of different initiatives, with this funding hopefully we will be able to offer a lot more,” said Baliko.

He added that some of the initiatives include an Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) program, mental health first aid, and mental health weeks on campus.

“We hope that {Red Deer College will] use some of this money to expand their hours because as of yet there’s a lot of students where they can’t get to the counselling hours that are provided.”

He added that it would make a huge difference to expand the hours for a large number of practicum students, or those who have all day classes or even full-time jobs.

“[These students] often happen to be in high stress environments like nursing and education so it’s something that could really affect students in a positive way.”

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