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Introducing new peer-led mental health program funded by the McCall MacBain Foundation

Exterior photograph of OCAD University's main entrance at 100 McCaul St, Toronto.

OCAD University is thrilled to announce a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to prioritize student mental health and well-being. Generously supported by strategic funding from the McCall MacBain Foundation, we are proud to unveil an all-new peer-led mental health program at OCAD U. The official name of the program will be developed alongside students through focus groups and consultations taking place in the coming months. 

This peer-led initiative will empower students to co-create wellness programming that enhances mental health and builds community resilience among emerging creative artists and designers. Rooted in co-design and peer-to-peer support, the outcomes of this program will lay the foundation for scaling and strengthening community resilience at OCAD University. The program’s implementation will also provide an opportunity for other campuses across Canada to learn from and replicate the approach to not only broaden but also amplify the positive impact of collective wellness programs. 

Students seek increasingly flexible and low-barrier health and well-being programs, created with them rather than for them. Building on key insights from the Mindful Campus program piloted in early 2023 and supported by Public Health Canada, we leveraged OCAD U’s distinctive identity as a hub of creativity, exploration and innovation to design a new program that centres co-created, tailored solutions, led by trained peers. 

This new funding from the McCall MacBain Foundation will help shape student experience initiatives that address the key root causes of anxiety, depression and poor mental health and provide better support for those with greater needs or lesser access to resources. The program will make a significant difference in the lives of students and empower them to thrive both academically and personally.

“This program is built on our shared vision with the McCall MacBain Foundation to create models for student-led mental health initiatives in a post-pandemic world,” says Ana Serrano, OCAD U’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “We are grateful for this partnership that enables us to further our commitment to the health and well-being of our students and underscores the lasting impact philanthropy has on the OCAD U community.”


Launching in September 2024, the program aligns seamlessly with OCAD U’s long-term strategic plan to centre the student journey by increasing wellness support options. The program will include a variety of initiatives, including: 

  • Peer designed, developed, and led workshops and activities that support social connection and community building through an art and design lens, nature engagement, drop-in spaces and more.
  • Building a network of trained and supported peers who can provide informal one-on-one and group support that connect students experiencing social isolation to appropriate supports and activities on campus.
  • The creation of a student-led mental health mobile response team that will provide peer-based support for students experiencing non-urgent concerns.
  • Opportunities for student involvement with updating and disseminating the Supporting Students in Distress protocol and facilitating training across the institution.

These activities will be managed by an advisory group co-led by students and OCAD U staff. The program will prioritize the participation of students from a range of backgrounds, including but not limited to those who are Indigenous, Black and People of Colour, students from the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, those with disabilities and international students. 

“Together, with the support of the McCall MacBain Foundation and the dedication of our OCAD U community, we look forward to the positive impact this project will have in supporting the holistic well-being of students as they navigate their creative journey and beyond,” says Jennifer Robinson, OCAD U’s Dean of Students. 

Stay tuned for further updates and details regarding this exciting new mental health and wellness initiative leading up to its fall term launch.

About OCAD University

OCAD University is Canada’s largest and oldest art and design university. We’re a world-famous hub for art, design, digital media, research, innovation and creativity. Our students benefit from hands-on studio learning and have access to state-of-the-art shops and studios for both traditional and digital creation. Alongside a diverse and supportive team of instructors and peers, our students gain employable skills. Our graduates work in different sectors such as urban planning, environmental design, gaming, film, animation, publishing, illustration, graphic design, visual arts and arts administration.

About the McCall MacBain Foundation

The McCall MacBain Foundation’s mission is to improve the welfare of humanity by providing scholarships and other educational opportunities that nurture transformational leadership, and by investing in evidence-based strategies to address climate change, preserve our natural environment, and improve health outcomes. We believe in an evidence-based approach to health care that will lead to more efficient use of resources and a greater impact on our communities.