Lambton College partners with King’s University College to help youth tackle transition to post-secondary

June 25, 2015

Lambton College is piloting a new Mental Health program designed to ease the transition from high school to college or university.
Lambton College is piloting a new Mental Health program designed to ease the transition from high school to college or university.

SARNIA, June 25, 2015 – A new Mental Health program designed to help ease the transition from high school to college or university is being piloted at Lambton College as part of a collaboration with King’s University College in London.

The program is one of 14 to receive approval under the new $6 million Mental Health Innovation Fund provided by the provincial government to create new services and supports for postsecondary students at colleges and universities.

Lambton College, in partnership with King's, will receive approximately $270,000 over the next two years to create a program to help youth transition out of high school. The innovative peer-to-peer mental health support program, titled "From Tension to Triumph," will link post-secondary students with senior high school students through assemblies and in-class presentations aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues on campus.

To date, Lambton College has already completed two cycles of the pilot program with two local high schools. A third testing group will be implemented in September. Moving forward, King’s will be contributing resource expertise from Counselling and Student Development staff under the leadership of coordinator Joan Aldis, who is leading the project on behalf of King’s. For their part, King’s will also be delivering the peer-to-peer programming in local schools in the Thames Valley region.

The program takes a three-phase approach to helping senior level students mentally prepare themselves for their transition to college or university. Each phase is carefully executed to capture students during a critical time in their transition – when they’re applying to post-secondary, when they may or may not have received an offer of acceptance, and then a final check-in as graduation nears and leaving high school becomes a reality.

The first phase includes a high school assembly conducted by Lambton College mental health ambassadors for all grade 12 students. The assemblies take place in the fall semester and are designed to be extremely interactive and zone-in on the fears of what lies ahead as students prepare for graduation, and eventually, entering post-secondary.

“The key at this point in the program is engagement,” explains Charlene Mahon, Lambton College Professor and project lead for the program. “It’s peer-led and very open. It’s designed to be on topic but also includes a lot of personalization. We’re letting them tell us what they’re afraid of and helping them discover how they can cope. It’s about identifying mental health issues and putting a name to it ahead of time.”

Mahon says during the assembly, students will engage in a variety of physical and social activities that will generate open and honest discussion. The mental health ambassadors also share their own transition stories providing first-hand knowledge, experience, and encouragement.

Phase two of the program takes place six weeks later, when ambassadors return to the high school, this time visiting individual classrooms in pairs to speak more intimately about mental health challenges and awareness. The visit is meant to provide insight and resources about how students can be proactive about their own mental wellness, as well as how they can build internal and external support systems.

“At this point, they’ve already met the postsecondary students, they know the topic, but then we go deeper,” says Mahon. “Mental health is such an important topic but everything is at surface level. We’re trying to get the message out to students who we know will struggle on their own, that they are not alone and that help is out there. But we’re also teaching students to reach out to their friends who they see are struggling. That’s the missing piece.”

The third and final phase of the project will take place in the spring semester, with another in-class presentation being delivered to students prior to graduation.

“The third visit is really giving students the confidence that they know where to go if they’re struggling,” says Mahon. “Education is power and by this point in the program, they‘re equipped with their own toolkit of resources.”

At its roots, Mahon says the program is about “mental health preparedness training.”

“What we’ve done is created a curriculum that initiates the conversation but provides the resources that students need. It teaches them that there is hope, so they’ll feel more prepared when they actually walk in the door of their new campus,” she says.

So far, Mahon says feedback has been extremely positive. Next steps include revitalizing and revising the curriculum, developing evaluation methods for feedback, and establishing outcome measures for impact.

At its core, Mahon says the program builds on the five in five message that we all have mental health. She says the intention is to help build awareness that what students might experience during this time in their life is very commonplace.

“We know this transition is a peak time for students to be affected by mental health issues,” she says. “If we can be proactive and prepare them in advance, we may reduce the influx of those requiring help or prevent them from reaching a point where they feel lost and alone.”

For media inquiries or more information:

Jami Kloet
Corporate Communications Coordinator
Lambton College
Telephone: 519-542-7751 ext. 3337
Mobile: 519-328-2081