A 2013 survey at the University of Calgary revealed some startling statistics from students regarding the state of their well-being and on Monday officials kicked off a new mental health strategy on campus.

The goal of the initiative is create a "community of caring" where students, faculty and staff can talk about mental health and well-being in an environment where the stigma is reduced and members can feel supported.

"Through this new campus mental health strategy, we aim to become a leader locally and across Canada in promoting a healthy campus community," said Elizabeth Cannon, U of C president and vice-chancellor.

"This strategy addresses the holistic needs of our entire campus community," said Dru Marshall, provost and vice-president (academic), the driving force behind the strategy's creation. "This strategy recognizes the importance of support, collaboration and work-life balance for optimizing mental health and well-being."

A 2013 campus-wide student survey revealed that:

  • 90 percent of students who responded to the survey had felt overwhelmed
  • 64 percent felt lonely
  • 58 percent had felt overpowering anxiety
  • 8 percent reported they seriously considered suicide at some point during the previous 12 months
  • 18 percent of students reported having been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition

The university says the number one reason faculty and staff access the Employee and Family assistance program is for mental health issues and that the top reasons for them to access counselling include stress, anxiety and depression.

A task force comprised of mental health experts, practitioners, students, professors, executives and community members was struck last year to consult with groups on and off campus to come up with the plan.

The group used a WHO strategy to focus on six areas including; raising awareness and promoting well-being, developing resilience and self-management, enhancing early identification and self-management, providing direct service and support, aligning institutional policies, processes and procedures and creating and sustaining a supportive campus environment.

The strategy includes a number of recommendations that will take a look at which programs should be expanded and which ones should be enhanced and will identify those areas where new initiatives and programs should be developed.

The strategy is expected to begin implementation in early 2016 and will continue over the next several years.