The 2016 National College of Health Assessment (NCHA) for the U of A
noted that while most students rate their health as very good or excellent, the three issues most likely to affect academic success are anxiety, stress, and lack of sleep. Rates of anxiety and other mental illness are increasing in post-secondary institutions worldwide (Hunt & Eisenberg, 2010
). The U of A has implemented various efforts to support mental health needs of students, but options are limited and more mental health services and supports are needed. Specifically, there is no formal, non-academic campus space where students can relax and freely engage in mindful activities. We know that students tend to not only perform better academically, but also have a better overall experience and improved subjective quality of life when mental health needs are attended to (e.g. Eisenberg, Golberstein, & Hunt, 2009
). The Calm Room is one way to assist towards this end.
The Healthy University Strategic Plan
, based on NCHA data and in collaboration with a number of U of A working groups, revealed the following statistics in their April 2017 (most recent data) final release:
- “From a physical perspective, a large proportion of students are not engaging in regular physical activity, not making healthy eating choices, and not getting enough sleep. These factors all limit their ability to succeed academically.”
- “From a mental health perspective, the survey results indicated that:
- 2.1% of students reported having attempted suicide last year. Using recent enrolment figures (2.1% x 38,700 students) it can be estimated that 813 students attempted suicide last year.
- 9.1% of students self-harmed (3,522 students).
- 4.6% of U of A students reported having thought seriously about committing suicide last year (1,780 students).
- 45.4% felt so depressed that it was difficult to function (17,570 students).
- 39.6% felt that stress levels negatively affected their academic performance in the previous year (15,325 students).
- 31.5% felt that severe anxiety levels negatively affected their academic performance last year (12,191 students).
- 22.3% of U of A students felt socially isolated (8,630 students). Isolation is an important indicator in mental illness and threat assessment.”
The Healthy University Strategic Plan also noted that these self-reported levels of mental health challenges by U of A students are comparable to those in the nation-wide reference group, indicating a more pervasive and widespread situation.