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Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

Addiction, Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Resource for Ottawa’s Three Largest Post-Secondary Schools

Ottawa, September 30, 2020 — This fall for the first time in Canada, universities and colleges will have access to an all-in-one online resource to increase awareness and understanding of mental health, addiction and the stigma surrounding them. Faculty and staff at Ottawa’s three largest post-secondary institutions can engage with Stigma, Substances and Mental Health 101: An Educator’s Guide to Supporting Students.

This resource was developed through a partnership among the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA), Algonquin College, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, as well as local clinical experts, to equip post-secondary educators and staff to:

  • Help eliminate the stigma around mental health and addiction;
  • Build confidence in their ability to create a supportive environment;
  • Understand the importance of a harm-reduction approach; and
  • Direct students to community resources if they need additional support.

The online video includes four modules featuring experts and those with lived experience from a variety of organizations, such as the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and Ottawa Public Health. The contributors speak about real-world changes that faculty and staff can make to create a supportive environment when communicating with students with mental health or addiction issues.

“Substance use disorder is a health condition and it deserves to be treated like one. Unfortunately, it is often surrounded by judgment and shame. This stigma is one of the biggest barriers to achieving and maintaining recovery — we need to do something about that,” said Dr. Kim Corace, vice-president of Innovation and Transformation at The Royal. “It takes remarkable courage for someone to reach out and say I need help. This resource is a step towards ensuring that when a student reaches out, they will be met with the compassion, understanding and support they need.”

Post-secondary students typically have higher alcohol consumption rates than their non-student peers and may this year have an increased need for support and access to resources related to mental health and substance use. Rita Notarandrea, CEO of CCSA, cautioned: “Currently, there’s increased stress and anxiety among students because of the disruption and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We expect these feelings to have an impact on students’ alcohol consumption, as well as use of other substances. This resource will help give staff and educators the tools to offer support to students when and if they need it — support that they might not find otherwise.”

While focusing on mental health and addiction, the experts also speak to health equity and bias, which have the potential to shape a student’s access to help. A featured expert in the resource, Dr. Kim Hellemans, professor and department chair of the Department of Neuroscience at Carleton University, explains: “This project is part of a larger conversation, which is why it’s called 101; it’s the introduction and just the beginning. We hope that faculty and staff will choose to continue their learning on these issues as well as on other issues that impact their students.”

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