A champion of Camosun’s Mental Health & Wellbeing Strategy: Chris Balmer

Chris Balmer began working at Camosun in July, 1987 in an innovative “portal” position, created for recent counsellor graduates.

During those years, Chris worked in the Counselling Department within Student Services, half of this time as Department Chair. Early on, Chris recognized the need to engage with the college community which motivated him to develop the College’s first Student Peer-Counselling program and, with the assistance of a dedicated advisory committee, the College’s Employee Wellness Program.

Counsellors Iris Thompson-Glen and Chris Balmer

When Chris realized that learning and using basic counselling skills could be beneficial for other Student Services employees, he created the Counselling Support Program through Continuing Education. When it became apparent that many more students were presenting mental health challenges than could be seen by the Counselling Department, he organized a college mental health discussion forum that quickly blossomed into the college’s Healthy Minds Committee. Soon after that, this committee developed a Mental Health Framework for the college.

With Chris’s involvement in, and guidance from, the provincial CMHA Healthy Campuses initiative, he was instrumental in helping Camosun become the first BC college to develop a Student Mental Health Strategy.

The college’s Student Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy was launched in January 2016. Chris retired in 2018, having served the college for 31 years, but his final two years at the college were dedicated to the initial implementation phase of the strategy and the collaborative development of the Sexual Violence and Misconduct Policy and Sexual Violence Support and Education website.

Submitted by Faye Ferguson, CCARE

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