Improved education, better student accommodation, expanded care: McMaster’s new Mental Health strategy


It was during her second year that Rebecca Raminhos first felt something was terribly wrong.

“It got harder and harder to do the simple tasks. It was a waiting game as to when I was just going to completely fall apart,” Raminhos, a political science student says. “My panic was awful and I just knew things weren’t looking up. I began to feel it slowly taking its toll, culminating in that rock-bottom feeling.”

“Rock-bottom” was an overdose and a month’s stay in the hospital. Raminhos calls that time in treatment as among the best times of her life, an opportunity to focus on her health and learn different ways to cope.

Today Raminhos is healthier and because of her experience, has become a vocal advocate for improved and enhanced mental health care for university students.

It is her story, and those of her peers, that inspired McMaster’s new comprehensive mental health and well-being strategy.

The new strategy, which will be formally announced on Wednesday, enhances, expands and brings together existing mental health initiatives and services.

The strategy will:

  • Improve and increase mental health and well-being education, training and resources for staff and faculty
  • Implement a proactive, co-ordinated and unified approach to caring for students in difficulty
  • Adapt student accommodation and learning practices to meet changing and growing mental health needs
  • Increase the number of health professionals and care capacity within the Student Wellness Centre
  • Establish a program of research and health policy focused on post-secondary students and mental well-being

The strategy is the result of more than 200 hours of face-to-face interviews with community members, including more than 150 students, staff and faculty members..

“This is a dual commitment,” says Dr. Catherine Munn, head psychiatrist in the Student Wellness Centre and co-lead on the development of the strategy. “We’re working to improve the health of our campus while at the same time creating a more nurturing culture of care and support for students.”

“Times have changed,” says Allison Drew-Hassling, Munn’s counterpart on the project. “Students are facing new and increased mental health stresses and problems. We’re seeing new examples of addictive behaviours including gaming, screen and Internet addictions as well as substance abuse and addictions.”

The strategy will be officially unveiled Feb. 25 at 12:30 p.m. in the MUSC Atrium, during a mental health and wellness resource fair.

A number of student-created short films will be shown in the Atrium later in the day as part of Art with Impact: Movies for Mental Health.

Details can be found here.