The Campus Assessment Tool: A Youth Led Participatory Research Project is a national charity that works with young people to identify and dismantle barriers to positive mental health and youth help-seeking across Canada. In 2018, created the Campus Assessment Tool (CAT), a participatory research project for post-secondary mental health advocates, which provides a framework, tools, and mentorship to help students identify different services and systems on their campus and engage with decision-makers at their institutions in mental health promotion work. Over the past thee years, 25 post-secondary schools across Canada have participated in the CAT, with ten more planned to undertake the CAT in 2021-22. This symposium will go over the methodologies that inform the CAT, alon with the key findings from 2020-21 iterations of the tool. The findings indicate that the majority of students face mental health struggle(s) in their time at university, yet less than half of students know what mental health services are offered on their campus, and even fewer students feel comfortable accessing services. This symposium will outline the factors that cause students to struggle with their mental health, and the barriers that prevent students from accessing help. The policies, protocols, resources and services that exist (and don’t exist) to serve, protect and promote student mental health will also be outlined. Lastly, and the student researchers will identify steps that faculty and institutional decision-makers can take to better serve, protect and promote student mental health.


Stuart McHenry
Stuart McHenry (he/him) is the Knowledge Translation Lead at, where he works directly with youth to improve mental health systems on campuses across the country. Prior to joining, Stuart was involved in the academic labour movement, and completed his Master’s degree in Migration and Ethnic Relations from the University of Western Ontario. His Master’s research and community organizing experience continue to inform the work he does with today.

Jerrica Little
Jerrica Little (she/her) received her PhD in Public Health & Health Systems at the University of Waterloo in 2021, where she specialized in analysis of mental health systems for emerging adults. She also acted as the lead researcher on UW's Committee on Student Mental Health, which implemented 36 institutional recommendations between 2018-2021. Jerrica is now a post-doctoral fellow under CIHR’s Health System Impact Fellowship program, working jointly with and UWaterloo to support youth-led public mental health initiatives. Nothing is more inspiring to her than seeing the hard work and dedication of young people in building healthy and happy communities!

Seyedeh-Samin Barakati
Samin is a nursing student and the co-president of the chapter at Ryerson University. As a recent immigrant, Samin believes that she has had the opportunity to view many of our societal issues such as mental health stigma from a dual perspective. This has led her to constantly compare the two societies she has lived in to better understand the gaps and advances in each one and to evaluate the effectiveness of the actions that are taken to address mental health issues. Samin aim's to bring this perspective to their Jack chapter at Ryerson, where they aim to center their work around understanding the unique mental health needs of their community based on the concerns voiced by the students and to tailor their interventions accordingly. This approach allows them to let the community themselves decide how their team can support them using their platform and the resources provides. Samin's goal is to be nimble and innovative in addressing the ever-changing needs of their community, which she believes becomes especially important during these unprecedented times.

Key takeaways

  • Research method includes: online research, service provision, protect, and promote (upstream policies to protect and promote mental health)
  • Students conducted their own research through interviews of health and wellness, student services, and staff
  • 25 post-secondary schools have completed the CAT previously (2020-2021), 10 currently participating campuses this year
  • An overview of what the audit framework has found that:
    • Accessibility of services will determine how quickly students will be able to access care when needed
    • Average wait time to access mental health services across campuses was 1.5 weeks (and 2.5 week for a follow-up)
  • A survey created by Jack.Org was sent out across CAT participating campuses to get their perspectives of existing mental health services and resources
  • Survey findings from Ryerson showed that 76% of survey respondents noted facing mental health challenges during their post-secondary education but only 18% indicated using mental health services over the past year
    • 1 on 1 counselling was the most used service despite their being many other services available on campus
    • Only 35% of students were aware of mental health services available on campus
    • 36% of students who’d completed the survey noted disclosing mental health challenges to their professor to explain reasoning for assignment extension
      • It’s suggested that professors should be better informed on available resources in order to bridge this gap and point students to resources they could use to help resolve these challenges
  • CAT: those receiving care need to be main stakeholders in creating and revising campus mental health systems

Key Learning Objectives (defined by presenters)

  1. Participants will be able to identify the key components of the CAT project, including the research questions, methodological approaches, key findings and effective youth engagement practices
  2. Participants will be able to identify various factors that promote and inhibit mental health service accessibility and quality on the studied campuses
  3. Participants will be able to identify the benefits of the CAT project, particularly as it relates to youth leadership and skill building, as well as how it can assist institutional mental health strategies, policies and practices

Key Themes

  1. Review of available services on campus

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