Recommendation 17 Literature Review Summary

Key Points

  • Mental health training programs are viewed positively by faculty members, though there is a need to increase awareness about training opportunities and to remove barriers that prevent participation.
  • Faculty concerns about training programs include limited mental health literacy, confidentiality and privacy, and equity of workload across all students.
  • There are mixed results on the ability of training programs to enhance outcomes related to student mental health. Further, beneficial effects that are gained often diminish over time.
  • Comprehensive campus mental health strategies should incorporate mental health training with other initiatives that are tailored to post-secondary settings.

Literature Review Findings

Surveys conducted with faculty members revealed a desire to help students with mental health concerns but uncertainty about how to do so. Fewer than half of faculty members agreed that they can recognize symptoms of mental illness and were comfortable with approaching and assisting students. Respondents indicated concerns about lack of time and resources to support students, maintaining confidentiality and privacy, equity in workload for all students, and poor mental health literacy.

Most faculty members supported training programs for mental health, but only half were aware of available opportunities for training and around 10% had participated in any program. Knowledge of services available on campus and confidence in identifying and assisting students with mental health issues were related to more referrals and academic accommodations, which can be improved through training programs.

Faculty members’ knowledge of mental health, attitudes towards students with mental illness, confidence in approaching and assisting students, and behavioural outcomes (e.g. approaching students, referring them to services, and making academic accommodations) demonstrated mixed results. Variations in study samples and design, as well as differences across training programs, may partially explain conflicting results. In longitudinal studies, beneficial effects gained typically diminished over time. Research on mental health training programs in post-secondary institutions is limited; experimental studies are rare, and most measures used are self-reported.

Reviews of post-secondary campus policies note that mental health training programs are an important part of a comprehensive strategy to improve student mental health. Aside from learning to recognize symptoms and refer to campus services, there are other components that can enhance the success of training. Creating strategies targeted at incoming students, encouraging a “no wrong door” policy, and hiring trainers with lived experience of mental illness are all components of training programs that can improve effectiveness in post-secondary student populations.

Implications for Practice 

Efforts to improve awareness of training programs and campus mental health resources among faculty members are recommended, as well as strategies to encourage participation by removing time and resource-related barriers. Addressing concerns about confidentiality, academic workload, and mental health literacy in training programs would be beneficial.

Training programs should create a timetable for refresher courses to maintain effectiveness over time, as well as include opportunities for ongoing program evaluation. Training programs should be contextualized to post-secondary settings and incorporated into high-level campus policies on student mental health.