By Jenna Hobin
A $25,000 grant from Bell Let’s Talk will officially launch Carleton’s newest initiative in support of mental health and wellness—a comprehensive evaluation framework to better address the needs of the Carleton community and effective ongoing implementation efforts. Led through the Office of Student Affairs and Department of Psychology, this partnership will help support the hiring of graduate research assistants to conduct surveys, focus groups and a file review, with a central aim to reduce systemic barriers that exist for students in need of mental health support.
Prior to her current role as Manager of Mental Health Strategy and Initiatives in the Office of Student Affairs, Shannon Noonan worked as a residence life professional, which she credits as providing her with a well-rounded approach to thinking about mental health. Her front-line experience working in the helms of student life shed light on the diverse needs of the student population, so much so that she spearheaded the Carleton Therapy Dogs program to help break barriers for those in need of support.
As Shannon explains, “My passion is infusing mental health where it is otherwise not obvious and in every single aspect of a student’s experience. For example, the Carleton Therapy Dogs program has a rooted structure and validity in what it’s trying to accomplish, and doing the same with other initiatives bring mental health to the forefront of the conversation in a way that is accessible to people as part of the everyday vernacular.”
As a well-positioned leader for connecting people to research in mental health, increasing awareness of mental health in the community and informing best practices to approaching mental health, collaborating with the Department of Psychology was a natural fit.
Shannon will partner with Joanna Pozzulo, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, who felt compelled to expand mental health programming and advocacy after working with students, faculty and staff in need of support in her current role. With a passion for making our community a better and healthier place, Joanna is looking forward to dedicating more of her time to this area.
“I am really excited about using an evidence-based approach to tap into those systemic barriers. Being able to hear directly from the students in regards to what they need and being able to see how that aligns with what we already provide will be transformative in helping us make changes that make sense given the data,” says Joanna.
Part of this process will involve improving the breadth of mental health services and resources that already exist at Carleton, while simultaneously adding new initiatives that contribute to sustained and improved wellness. The evaluation will roll out in fall 2021, as part of a larger university-wide evaluation framework to address the mental health needs of students, accessibility of and on and off-campus services and identifying barriers to access, including equity, diversity and inclusion issues.
Shannon and Joanna emphasized that support from corporate partners like Bell Canada help validate and recognize the importance of mental health and wellness in higher education.
As Joanna explains, “Universities are traditionally viewed solely as places of education and research, and not thought of in terms of advancing student or employee mental health. Funding through initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk help us develop that piece, which ultimately helps us improve our outcomes in terms of education and research.” She continues, “We can’t do it alone and having funding from partners like Bell helps us advance the university’s mission while improving mental health and wellness in our communities.”
At the Hub for Good, read more partnership stories, explore opportunities to get involved and learn how Carleton University makes an impact around the world.