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New federally funded program supports student success, mental health and well-being

Today, Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced a new program to help art and design students at six Canadian post-secondary institutions develop skills to support and maintain their mental health and well-being.

Mindful Campus is being led by OCAD University in Toronto in partnership with the Centre for Mindfulness Studies and a collaborative network of post-secondary art and design schools and faculties.

In addition to OCAD University, NSCAD University, Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Seneca’s School of Creative Arts and Animation and York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design are also participating in the program.

The initiative received a grant of close to $4 million from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), Government of Canada, through the program Supporting the Mental Health of those Most Impacted by COVID.

“Our government recognizes that the pandemic has added greatly to the pre-existing mental health and substance use challenges that many students and young people face. This is especially true for marginalized and racialized young adults. Today’s funding to the Mindful Campus Initiative will empower students at OCAD University and four additional campuses across Canada to learn healthy coping skills, build resilience and support one other as we continue to adapt to challenging and evolving times,” said The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Associate Minister of Health.

“On behalf of everyone at NSCAD, I am thrilled that the Public Health Agency Canada is supporting the Mindful Campus Initiative to help create an environment in which emerging creative artists and designers, including those from underrepresented communities, can flourish,” says NSCAD President Dr. Peggy Shannon.

She says the pandemic created very real emotional, financial and logistical challenges for all post-secondary students, but makers in art and design schools faced the unique pressures of losing their studio experience and the creative influences of their peers.

“As people cope with isolation by engaging culture, we know that more than ever the world needs art and design, and we all need to support our students’ resilience so they can support our collective wellness,” says Dr. Shannon.



The focus of Mindful Campus is two-fold: to enhance students’ coping skills, and to create a supportive environment in which emerging creative artists and designers, including those from underrepresented communities, can flourish.

These parallel components include a set of mindfulness-based interventions targeting resilience as well as a comprehensive set of mental health promotion materials linked to a peer support network, which will support student academic and personal success.

The program consists of direct delivery of mindfulness-based student programs, in both self-directed and group-based experiential learning forms.

It will roll-out on a pilot basis at OCAD University during the Winter 2023 term, then will be implemented at NSCAD and the five other partner post-secondary institutions in the Fall of 2023.

Mindful Campus is modelled on mindfulness-based interventions for young adults developed and delivered by the Centre for Mindfulness Studies. The centre will further adapt these courses to fully emphasize mental health and well-being through coping and resilience skills development for this new initiative.



“As we emerge from the pandemic, students continue to face an uncertain world with climate change, rising housing costs and inflation and current political conflicts. Mindful Campus is designed to help students develop resilience and coping skills to meet life’s challenging and stressful experiences so they can truly flourish. We are very grateful to the Public Health Agency of Canada for investing in the health and well-being of students and to our partners in supporting this program,” said Deanne Fisher, Vice-Provost, Students & International at OCAD University.

“With the toll that the last few years have taken on students, the Mindful Campus Initiative will provide our Fine Arts students with evidence-based strategies to build-out community, reduce stress and inspire their creativity,” says Annie Gérin, Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University.

“Seneca is grateful to the federal government and joins our academic partners in supporting the Mindful Campus Initiative. The pandemic exposed in stark relief the mental health issues being experienced by too many students in higher education. The project’s engaging resources and inclusive activities will be a great benefit to Seneca students,” says David Agnew, President of Seneca.

“York University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design focuses on the whole person. We provide students with the tools needed to support their physical and mental well-being. Students must develop their technique alongside wellness strategies to reach and sustain their creative potential,” says Dr. Sarah Bay-Cheng, Dean of the York University School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD). “We are pleased to partner with OCAD U on this investment that brings wellness into the core of our curriculums. We look forward to developing existing initiatives and expanding our wellness mandate into new facets of the School.”