The University of Toronto is launching a new online portal that makes it easier for students to find mental health services and resources on all three campuses, as well as those of partner organizations in the community.
Part of U of T’s commitment to develop a more harmonized and student-centric approach to student mental health, the Student Mental Health Resource website – developed in consultation with students – allows students to quickly and easily find the mental health services they need, when they are needed.
The site also allows students to support their peers by suggesting mental health resources they have personally found valuable, with U of T clinicians and practitioners vetting and adding new resources to the site as appropriate.
“We know that it can sometimes be difficult for students to find the services and supports they’re looking for – particularly during a time of duress,” said Cheryl Regehr, U of T’s vice-president and provost. “That’s why the university has worked to develop an innovative, easy-to-use hub that students can use to navigate the wide range of mental health services and resources available to them across our three campuses.
“It’s also important to curb the stigma associated with mental health and create a supportive and inclusive environment that allows U of T students to flourish – and it’s hoped the Student Mental Health Resource site can play a role in helping achieve those goals.”
The website is one of several recent initiatives U of T has launched in response to the findings of the independent Presidential and Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health, which spent months consulting with students, staff and faculty across U of T’s three campuses. Others include: the addition of same-day counselling on the St. George campus and drop-in counselling during exam periods; the creation of the IBM-powered Navi virtual chat assistant; expansion of the free, on-demand, multilingual counselling service My SSP and a partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
“Our students are the heart of our university – and we care deeply about them,” Regehr said. “We’ve been working hard on the redesign of student mental health services that we announced back in January – and we’re going to keep working with students and student organizations, as well as our partners at CAMH, to make sure that we have the right supports in place, and that everyone knows where to get the help they need, whenever they need it.”
Students, both graduate and undergraduate, were the focus of the development of the new Student Mental Health Resource site. They helped test its search and filter functions and helped select the site design they felt would work best for their peers.
The site offers multiple search and filter functions that students can use to customize their search results to specific interest and need. Programs and services can be filtered by campus, U of T or community provider, and by topics such as anxiety, relationships and stress. Additionally, students can filter using the care category that may suit their need, such as peer support, self-directed informational resources or individual and group programs. Beyond this function, students can search the content of the site, as well as over 60 linked partner sites, using any keyword, as with a standard web search.
A student who is not interested accessing in-person supports, particularly during COVID-19, can type “online” into a filter to access only remote and virtual services.
Students can use the “Build Your Toolkit” feature to access resources recommended by clinicians and practitioners. These can include apps, podcasts, books or social media initiatives that deal with topics such as relationships, equity and financial stress. Students can also use the toolkit feature to suggest new resources they have personally found helpful be added to the site.
The website features a prominent “Book An Appointment” button that provides quick links to appointment-booking services on all three campuses, as well as for graduate student wellness counselling and an events calendar that students can use to identify in-person and virtual events they are interested in attending.
“Students are at the core of U of T’s mission of higher education and research, and it’s vital that we continue to find ways to improve their ability to access mental health resources and services,” said Joseph Desloges, a professor in the department of geography and planning in the Faculty of Arts & Science and former principal of Woodsworth College who heads U of T’s mental health services redesign team.
“It’s important to note that this new resource is not static but will serve as a dynamic and ever-evolving gateway that will help with mental health wayfinding for our students.
“It is our hope that this website contributes to strengthening the culture of caring at U of T by empowering students with the tools they need to care for their own mental health as well as contribute to that of their peers.”