Nov. 29, 2016

Results from National College Health Assessment reveal continuum of students’ mental health

Survey findings help guide the kinds of supports available to students
From Jan. 28 to Feb. 18, 2016, 1,004 students on University of Calgary campuses completed the National College Health Assessment online survey.

From Jan. 28 to Feb. 18, 1,004 students completed the National College Health Assessment survey.

University Relations

Results from the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) reveal that students in Alberta continue to report high levels of stress, anxiety, and sleep difficulties.

The NCHA is a self-reported online survey that collects information on students’ health behaviours, attitudes, and perceptions. From Jan. 28 to Feb. 18, 2016, 1,004 students on the University of Calgary campuses (in Canada) completed the online survey. This was the second time the University of Calgary has participated, with the first survey administered in 2013.

The impact of stress on university students remains high, and can be intensified during final exams. Over 40 per cent of UCalgary students report stress affecting their academic performance, which is consistent with the provincial average.

60.2 per cent of UCalgary students (compared with 68.3 per cent of Alberta students) report that they felt overwhelming anxiety at some time during the last 12 months, a slight increase from 2013. 

UCalgary students report a slight decrease in sleep difficulties (26.9 per cent compared to 27.8 per cent in 2013), which is below the provincial average of 28.3 per cent.

The survey revealed that in the last 12 months, 12 per cent of UCalgary students reported seriously considering suicide (compared to the provincial average of 13.1 per cent) and 65 per cent of students reported feeling very lonely.

The continued high rates of loneliness, stress and anxiety emphasize the importance of expanding peer support offerings, as well as programs aimed at educating students, staff and faculty about responding to students at risk. In response, the SU Wellness Centre offers programs and workshops targeted to address these findings.

  • The Helping Skills workshop increases individual’s comfort levels with supporting others who may be experiencing a problem or who are in distress
  • Question Persuade Refer suicide intervention program provides suicide intervention training
  • Wellness Workshops on topics such as anxiety, stress, stigma reduction, and sleep strategies

Additionally, the SU Wellness Centre began providing students with 24/7 mental health support in September 2016. When students call the SU Wellness Centre after hours, they will have the option to speak with a crisis counsellor from the Wood’s Homes’ community resource team, or a Distress Centre volunteer.

Programs informed by the health priorities identified by the 2013 NCHA data continue to be provided, including the Roots of Resiliency program, the Community Helpers program, and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training.

“The evidence provided in this survey data further reinforces the importance of the Campus Mental Health Strategy in support of a flourishing, resilient and healthy campus community,” says Debbie Bruckner, senior director of student, wellness, access, and support. “What is encouraging is that we see an increased willingness in students to seek resources and help.”

In 2016, 80.1 per cent of UCalgary respondents (compared to 78.6 per cent of Alberta respondents) reported that they would consider seeking help from a mental health professional in future, up over six per cent compared to 2013. A higher percentage of respondents also reported they received health information from their university on depression and anxiety, stress reduction and suicide prevention.

Faculty, staff or student groups interested in learning more about the results of the NCHA can contact Georgia Carstensen, manager, mental health promotion and outreach to request an information session. See more information about the NCHA.

The NCHA is funded through the Alberta Health Mental Health and Addictions grant, and is a Students’ Union Quality Money project.

Read full results of the survey.