By Emma McCann – Engagement Lead & Kristin Cleverley – Chair, Student & Youth Mental Health Research Initiative
The Innovation Hub has been involved in a scope of conversations on mental health, wellness, and initiatives to support students. Most recently, our work with the Presidential & Provostial Taskforce on Student Mental Health shone a light on many needs in the community and has been a launch pad to important partnerships and initiatives to further support students at the University. We deeply understand how it’s so important to continue to highlight what is happening now in the community on student mental health and opportunities to be a part of these important conversations.
If you are a student and are passionate about improving campus mental health through collaborative research, we encourage reading this week’s special blog post on the Mental Health for Students & Youth Research Initiative!
*** Please note that the deadline to apply to this wonderful opportunity has been extended to January 11th, 2021! ***
Student mental health isn’t a new topic on campuses – yet, there is a substantial gap in research evidence on the mental health needs of university students.
Mental health research is not only integral to better understanding the challenges students are facing, but to developing and evaluating solutions that are effective, timely, and best address the post-secondary community’s priorities. Given the importance of mental health research, this knowledge gap contributes to rising concerns over effective mental health programs on campus, service design and delivery. Many of these issues were identified in the January 2020 report from U of T’s Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health.
In response to this report, the Student & Youth Mental Health Research Initiative was recently announced. This initiative is in the early stages of working across UofT to establish a network of experts in student mental health research in order to co-create research-informed, evidence-based solutions to the challenges identified by the Task Force on Student Mental Health.
What do we mean by Student Mental Health?
In the context of the Student & Youth Mental Health Research Initiative, student mental health is inclusive of mental wellness, mental illness and substance misuse. It encompasses the full length of a student’s journey – from transitions into post-secondary education to graduation – and the full range of student mental health experience — from community and individual well-being to clinical intervention, inside the classroom and out.
We recognize that there is no one student experience at UofT. UofT students vary widely in age, identity, ability, and background, and in their mental health experiences both on and off campus. In order to best understand and address student mental health challenges at UofT through this Research Initiative, we will engage with diverse student voices from programs and departments at all three UofT campuses at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
The Student Advisory Committee
The Student & Youth Mental Health Research Initiative is partnering with UofT and CAMH researchers and community members, including students, clinicians, and administrators. In research, broad community engagement provides new insights into the needs, priorities, and interests of those who use and are most affected by research outcomes. When led in partnership with community members, research can be more valid, accurate, and credible.
Together, we can mobilize and build on the expertise that already exists in student mental health across UofT in order to lead high impact, collaborative research that will strengthen our community wellbeing and position UofT as an international leader in campus mental health research. A primary pillar of this process is identifying and engaging with student experts across all three UofT campuses.
This week, the Call for Applications for Student Advisory Committee Members opened via the Institutional Strategic Initiatives page. The Student Advisory Committee is a central part of our plan to build student voice into this Research Initiative at the ground floor. The Student Advisory Committee will not only help define the vision and priorities of this research network, but will develop a centralized model for ongoing student engagement in student mental health research across UofT that ensures diversity, accountability, sustainability, appropriate recognition and authentic engagement.
We are currently looking for at least six members across the three UofT campuses to join the Student Advisory Committee. Applicants should be current students (graduate or undergraduate) in good academic standing who have a demonstrated track record of personal, academic, volunteer, or professional expertise in student and youth mental health and/or research.
You can find more information about the Student Advisory Committee and the application process here: https://research.utoronto.ca/call-student-advisory-committee-applications-mental-health-students-youth-research-initiative.
Applications will close January 11th, 2021.
Early in the New Year, our team will facilitate broad community consultations across our campuses, with guidance from the Student Advisory Committee. If you’re interested in keeping up to date with our progress and learning more about these opportunities, join our mailing list here.
Do you have questions about the Student Advisory Committee or the Student & Youth Mental Research Initiative? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Kristin Cleverley is the Chair of the Mental Health for Students & Youth Research Initiative, the CAMH Chair in Mental Health Nursing Research, and an Assistant Professor in the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing and Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Through engaging students, youth and their families as experts in informing and co-designing novel clinical and health service interventions, Dr. Cleverley’s research aims to improve mental health care transitions for people with mental illness, addictions, and concurrent disorders.
Emma McCann is the Engagement Lead, Mental Health for Students & Youth Research Initiative, a Knowledge Translation & Engagement Specialist at the Cleverley Lab, and a recent UofT grad. Emma has worked at the community, national, and international level building stakeholder engagement into research and systems of care. She is passionate about moving community knowledge and research evidence into practice and developing capacity for collaboration across mental health settings.