Wellbeing on Campus and in the Classroom

The Health of Trent Students - The National College Health Assessment (NCHA)

In February and March of 2016, Student Health Services distibuted the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) to 4000 Trent students. Of these, 1156 students responded to the survey, providing some insight into the health of our students. Below are some of the results of this survey as well as how this data might apply to learning environments on campus. The information below is divided into themes, with more themes to come in the 2016-17 academic year.

Themes include:

Creating Community

Student Safety

Student Distress

Mental Health

Risk-taking Behaviour

Career and Personal Growth

Applying NCHA to Learning Environments

Creating Community

Relevant NCHA Statistics

71.3% of Trent students felt very lonely sometime in the last 12 months (of those, 36% felt lonely in the last 2 weeks).

44.3 % of Trent students felt they belonged to a community every day or almost every day.

58.3% of Trent students live off-campus, not with a parent/guardian, (whereas 44.3% of students in the Canadian reference group live off campus, not with a parent/guardian).

Application to the Classroom

Use the first 5 minutes of class to build community by:

  • Encouraging students to get to know the person next to them
  • Asking students the top 3 things trending today

Facilitate social connection by establishing study groups.

Encourage students to connect with student clubs or groups. The college offices are a great place to start making connections.


Campus safety

Relevant NCHA Statistics

92.9% of Trent students felt safe on campus during the daytime.

51.5% of Trent students felt very safe on campus at night.

40.4% of Trent students felt somewhat unsafe or not at all safe in the community at night.

Application to the Classroom

Encourage students to walk to cars or the bus together after evening classes.

Set a positive example by using the campus Walkhome program.


Student Distress

Relevant NCHA Statistics

Just over 90% of Trent students felt overwhelmed and/or exhausted in the last 12 months.

Approximately 84% of Trent students agreed or strongly agreed that the university and its faculty sincerely care about their wellbeing.

Approximately 66% of Trent students felt things were hopeless sometime in the last year.

Application to the Classroom

Provide information about campus resources if you notice changes in behaviour such as: absence, decline in quality of work, social withdrawal, outbursts (tears, anger).

Start lecture with slides about student services (e.g. Academic Skills for time management, Academic Advising for selecting courses, Counselling Services for personal difficulty). See this PowerPoint slide as an example. 


Mental Health

Relevant NCHA Statistics

Approximately 32% of Trent students report being treated or diagnosed by a professional for a mental health concern in the last 12 months.

Just over 23% of Trent students surveyed have accessed mental health services form Trent University Counselling Services or Student Health Services.

Just over 66% of Trent students felt happy every day or almost every day.

Application to the Classroom

Encourage students who disclose mental health concerns to register with Student Accessibility Services.

Offer options and choice in assignments and exams (e.g. Best 3 of 4 assignments, choose 4 of 7 questions to answer, provide options for deadlines).

Support student mental health by incorporating information about wellbeing into a course syllabus. See page 6 of this syllabus from ERSC 1010H as an example.

For information on recognizing and responding to mental health concerns, visit: http://trentu.morefeetontheground.ca/ 


Risk-Taking Behaviour

Relevant NCHA Statistics

Approximately 62% of Trent students used protection the last time they had sex.

Just over 50% of Trent students report having used marijuana.

Approximately 31% of Trent students, within the last 12 months, report forgetting what they did when drinking alcohol.

Just over 12% of Trent students report having used MDMA.

Application to the classroom

Life factors, such as feeling overwhelmed, pressure to succeed, or sleep difficulty can increase vulnerability to risk-taking behaviours as well as to academic risk-taking such as plagiarism, pulling all-nighters, or academic dishonesty. Consider the following strategies:

  • Encourage positive coping strategies of physical activity, personal care, or connecting with friends, family and community. 
  • Validate and acknowledge specific times during the academic year that are particularly stressful.
  • Support students to develop coping skills and adapt to change. This can help their overall wellbeing and reduce their likelihood of risk-based coping. 
  • Encourage students to seek help early to prevent academic risk-taking.


Career & Personal Growth

Relevant NCHA statistics

Just over 46% of Trent students felt their lives had a sense of direction and meaning every day or almost every day in the last month.

Just over 46% of Trent students felt, in the last month, they had experiences that challenged them to grow and become a better person every day or almost every day.

Approximately 37% of Trent students, within the last month, felt they had something important to contribute to society every day.

Approximately 33% of Trent students identified career-related issues were traumatic or very difficult to handle in the last 12 months.

Approximately 48% of Trent students identified finances were traumatic or very difficult to handle in the last 12 months.

Application to the classroom

Integrate career-related skills into coursework (eg. teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, etc.).

Incorporate service learning and real world examples when possible.

Invite a guest speaker who works in a relevant field to speak about their experience.

Invite a representative from the Career Centre into the classroom to help students begin to explore their career options and career planning steps.



American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Trent University Executive Summary Spring 2016. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2016.


This project is in collaboration with the Centre for Teaching and Learning and has been inspired by the NCHA data and Simon Fraser University's "Well-being in Learning Environments" project. For more information about the National College Health Assessment and relevant Canadian data, visit: http://www.acha-ncha.org/