How to Enter

To enter the contest, submit your campaign idea to the identified contact for your university. In addition, you should complete and submit the contest application form.  Each publicly funded university in Ontario will send COU the top submissions from their campuses. We want this contest to be open to all university students, so please visit the Accessibility Guidelines page for tips on how to make your submissions accessible. It’s an easy process.

Key Dates

Submissions Due: 29 November 2013
Announcement of Winners: March 2014


Our judges will be looking for solutions that are:

  • Innovative: original and creative
  • Scalable: feasible for employment on campuses across Ontario
  • Evidence-based: based on scientifically proven conclusions about mental health or in response to an identified need
  • Thematic: based on one of our four themes (see below)
  • Respectful: uses appropriate language and is considerate of people with mental illness

You can review the full Judging Criteria Grid and explanations of the terms therein.

What is social media?

The term “social media” refers to the new tools that internet users employ to create and exchange information, including: blogs, websites, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Google+, Reddit, and others. You can submit a campaign plan for any of the tools listed here. If you’d like to use a different platform, please email COU first.

How far along do I need to be in the creative process?

You don’t need to plan out a full social media campaign. Just send us:

1)      a prototype of the content you would use or a description of content you envision creating; and

2)      a brief explanation of how you would try to reach your intended audience.

It’s that easy!

What counts as sample content?

Use whatever makes most sense for your chosen social media platform. It could be a picture or drawing; an innovative, text-based message; a video; or something else entirely.

Don’t know how to create the kind of content you’d like to propose? Just send us an explanation of your idea. Let’s say, for example, that your idea is to create a series of educational videos about mental health, but you don’t have the equipment or technical expertise to produce it. You can instead submit a description of the messages and/or themes you would cover.

Email COU if you have any questions.

Technical Requirements and Submission Formats:

You can submit your social media campaign plan in one of several formats. Your chosen format will have no impact on the evaluation of your submission, so pick whatever platform you are comfortable using. Your submission format does not need to match your chosen social media platform. You could, for example, describe a Facebook campaign in a video or Word document.

We want this contest to be open to all university students. To help us meet this standard, please follow the directions on the Accessibility Guidelines page. For more information on the technical requirements for submissions, please read our Rules and Regulations.

The judges will only spend 10 minutes evaluating each submission (including viewing and discussion), so be strategic about what you present.

  • Video: you may submit a link to a video no longer than two minutes in length, in which you explain your idea. The video should be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo, and must be captioned in order to meet accessibility standards. Captioning a YouTube video is easy; just visit this help page for instructions. Vimeo does not currently support separate closed captioning text files, so captions need to be added as graphics to the original content.
  • Electronic Document: you may submit an explanation of your idea in a .PDF, .DOC, .DOCX, .PPT, or .PPTX document. Explanations of your dissemination plans should not exceed 500 words in Word documents or 15 slides in PowerPoint presentations.
  • Website or Social Media: you may send us the link to a website or social media page, but you should not publicly connect COU to any new content. If you are re-using content from a previous campaign, be sure to submit whatever information and/or links are necessary to view it. Alternatively, you could submit screenshots of the content from former campaigns. There is no limit on the amount of content you can use on your site, but note that the judges will only spend 10 minutes to both view and discuss your submission. Your descriptions of your dissemination plans should not exceed 500 words.
  • Alternative Format: you may propose to send us some other form of electronic submission, so long as it complies with our rules and regulations. Email COU to verify that your proposed submission format is acceptable. In the e-mail, please include your name, a brief explanation of the format, the title of your presentation, and your reason(s) for proposing an alternative format. COU will consider the proposal and respond with approval or refusal within 3 business days.

Thematic Requirements:

Your solution should address at least one of the following themes.

1. Changing Attitudes:

Negative attitudes and stereotypes about mental illness often result in discrimination. The social exclusion of a group of people, based on false assumptions about real or perceived attributes, is known  as “stigma.” People who believe that they will be judged or treated harshly if they disclose information about their mental health are less likely to seek assistance and treatment. Stigma does not affect everyone in the same way, but one form of discrimination can amplify the difficulties created by another. Many Ontarians embrace the diversity of their communities, but some people continue to face public intolerance, exclusion, and even violence. Recent immigrants or LGBTQ youth, for example, may be less likely to seek public services because of the discrimination they regularly confront. Stigma might therefore discourage a member one of these groups from seeking assistance, if s/he develops a mental illness. In addition, stigma and discrimination can place additional pressure on individuals, which can exacerbate mental health challenges.

Submissions in this category should be aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

2. Awareness of Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness:

Early detection and treatment can improve someone’s odds of recovery from a mental illness, and may even prevent future mental health problems. An understanding of the signs and symptoms of mental illness can help individuals determine when they should pursue treatment, or when they should encourage others to do so.

Submissions in this category should be aimed at helping users identify the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and encourage help-seeking behaviour. The content of these submissions should be based on sound evidence or an identified need. However, we are not seeking diagnostic content.

3. Self-Care and Management:

The World Health Organization defines self-care as “activities individuals, families, and communities undertake with the intention of enhancing health, preventing disease, limiting illness, and restoring health.” Self-care is also a critical component of good mental health, and can be practiced by people with or without mental illnesses. Physical activity, for example, can improve someone’s mood, and has often proven useful in treatment plans for mild-to-moderate depression. A balanced diet is also essential for optimizing brain functions, while tobacco and drug use can be detrimental.

Submissions in this category should encourage self-care and management of mental illness.

4.  Community Building:

Supportive social networks improve mental health by giving people a sense of purpose, belonging, safety, and self-worth. As a result, the members of these communities may be more motivated to practice proper self-care and more inclined to ask for assistance when needed. Students who feel isolated from their homes, families, and friends—such as first-year students, commuters, international students, etc.—may benefit from a strong community-building initiative.

Submissions in this category should promote the development of social networks and university communities. While you should not strive to develop segregated communities of students with mental illnesses, you must submit an explanation of how your entry is connected to mental health.