Perspectives on Mental Health

an interdisciplinary virtual symposium

View recordings of the presentations by clicking on the links below for each section.

Presenters and presentations

Section 1

The information shared in these presentations is not intended as, nor should be considered, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

with co-presenters Olivia Lu and Wenting Wendy Rong

Eastern perspectives on mental health

Mainstream mental health research and practice has been dominated by Western approaches which have a number of limitations and problems. Alternatives to mental health such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Yuan Shi Dian medicine (YSD) apply different, more wholistic perspectives that provide effective treatment for mental health issues; these deserve our attention. The present study will examine both theories and practices of TCM and YSD in comparison to Western approaches. In particular, we will discuss Universe-Human Oneness Theory, the Qi Theory, the Yin-Yang Theory, the Five-Element Theory, the Golden Means Theory, and mindfulness rooted in Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, and their application and implication for mental health. It is our hope that the study of these alternatives may help enrich our understandings of mental health, offer more culturally competent mental health services, move beyond Eurocentric mental health approaches, and provide more effective treatment for mental illness.

View a PDF of this presentation

Visit Professor Lu’s faculty page

Additional resources: 

CCH Foundation USA LINK  

China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences LINK  

Stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic among young adults and the supporting role of dog walking

In an online survey, 441 participants (aged 17-25 years) responded to questions measuring the types of stressors they were experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic, their physical and psychological well-being, and how often they walked their dogs. Mental health issues were significantly related to all the measures of well-being. Feeling helpless to deal with other people living with the participants predicted increased loneliness (7.156 t(5.287), p < .001), stress (- 4.470 t(6.668), p < .001) and lower social-connectiveness (-9.089  t(-3.478) p < .001). Dog walking predicted higher global self-worth (1.421 t(5.641), p < .001), less stress (-.324 t(-2.632), p .009) and improved sense of social-connectedness (1.157 t(2.367), p = .018). These findings highlight the supporting role of dog walking which can inform the design of mental health supports and suggest that lack of physical contact with others is not necessarily the main stressor during the current pandemic.

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with Kristina Hinves and Shanel Quenneville

Self-Compassion and Mindfulness in Emerging Adolescents: Pre-COVID-19 Behaviours and the “New Normal”

Research shows that self-compassion and mindfulness are important social cognitive skills that develop throughout adolescence. The impacts of Covid-19 on adolescents, due to limited interaction and disrupted environments, have presented new challenges for mindfulness and mental-health.
This study analyzes Y1 data (2015-2016) from a 5-year longitudinal study on social cognitive development in adolescence and included 146 Canadian 12 to 13 year olds, completing self-report questionnaires that assessed self-compassion and mindfulness.
Our study showed significant positive correlations between self-compassion and mindfulness. New research on adolescents suggests that the disruption of socialization has had a negative impact on mental health, however, mindfulness and self-compassion levels have increased. We discuss our findings in relation to Covid-19 and based on recent research that focuses on compassion and mindfulness, suggest strategies and initiatives to help young people cope with the challenges of the pandemic, and aim to improve the psychosocial health of adolescents.

View a PDF of this presentation 

Visit the Theory of Mind in Education Lab 

Additional resources:  

School Mental Health Ontario LINK

BounceBack Ontario LINK

Section 2

The information shared in these presentations is not intended as, nor should be considered, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

“I feel like nature is how I cope with stuff” – Understanding How Connections to Nature are Formed and How They Shape Experiences of Mental Health in Canadian Youth

We, Madi, Stephanie, and Safa, are undergraduate researchers working alongside Drs. Gardner and Michaelson on a qualitative research project about adolescent mental health and connections to nature. Past research shows that nature may have protective effects on youth mental health. Our study’s aim was to understand how connections to nature are formed and how they shape experiences of mental health in adolescents. Data was generated by qualitative semi-structured interviews and focus groups (n=74) with young people from across Canada. Guided by interpretive description as a methodological orientation, we conducted a broad thematic exploration of the data. Our initial results suggest that connections to nature are influenced by external factors such as demographics and upbringing. Our analysis provides nuanced insights into young people’s interpretations of their own experiences in relation to nature and mental health. We discuss implications of our findings for supporting the mental health of Canadian youth.

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This is research completed in collaboration with Danielle S. Molnar.

Youth Perfectionists’ Mental Health Experiences During the Pandemic

This talk will focus on the results from interviews with over 50 self-identified perfectionists aged 13-24. In particular, we will focus on how they discussed their experiences with mental health during the first Covid-19 lockdown. It is important to note that while we did not ask the youth about mental health, they spontaneously talked about it in their interviews to the extent that ‘mental health’ was an emergent theme with eight emergent sub-themes. In addition, the emergent themes of ‘pressure to be productive’ and ‘need for structure’ were also associated with young people’s discussion of their mental health and wellbeing during the pandemic.

View a PDF of this presentation 

Visit Professor Zinga’s faculty page

primary researcher: Karen Patte, Assistant Professor, Health Sciences

Do weight perception and bullying victimization account for links between weight status and mental health among adolescents?

The purpose of this study was to explore whether the way youth perceive their weight and their experiences of bullying victimization account for the increased risk of depression and anxiety symptoms, and poor psychosocial wellbeing, associated with overweight/obesity, and if relationships differed by gender, in a large sample of Canadian secondary school students. Students with ‘overweight’ or ‘underweight’ perceptions, and reporting bullying victimization, reported higher anxiety and depressive symptomatology, and lower flourishing levels, in comparison to students with ‘about right’ weight perceptions and without experiences of bullying victimization, respectively, controlling for BMI status. Results were largely consistent across gender. Results suggest perceptions of weight and experiences of bullying independently contribute to differences in mental health outcomes by weight status among youth. Continued efforts targeting weight-based bullying and weight bias, and the promotion of body size acceptance and positive body image, may help reduce the risk of mental illness and poor mental health among adolescents.

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This is research completed in collaboration with Dawn Zinga, Terry Wade, Deb O’Leary, Adam MacNeil, and Jessy Moore.

Dynamic changes in perfectionism and mental health pre-pandemic to during COVID-19 among young people

Concern continues to mount about the negative mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for adolescents and young adults. Perfectionistic youth may be at greater risk for negative mental health during the pandemic given that perfectionism contributes to a host of mental health problems in youth generally and is theorized to be a salient factor in individuals’ responses to the pandemic. Thus, in this talk I will discuss two studies in which we assessed changes in mental health among Canadian youth pre-pandemic to during COVID-19 and determined how differences in multidimensional trait perfectionism were associated with changes in mental health. Overall, results indicated significant changes in youth mental health and perfectionism from pre-pandemic to during pandemic and that perfectionism predicted poorer mental health outcomes during the pandemic. In addition to discussing specific results, this talk will address public policy and clinical implications.

View a PDF of this presentation 

Visit the Developmental Processes in Health and Well-Being Lab

Section 3

The information shared in these presentations is not intended as, nor should be considered, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Mechanisms Supporting Students’ Social and Emotional Learning Development: Qualitative Findings from A Teacher-Led Intervention

Social and emotional learning (SEL) refers to the promotion of mental health and positive wellbeing through the development of skills, attitudes, and knowledge. While the positive outcomes of SEL are well documented, less is known about mechanisms that support the acquisition of students’ SEL; this qualitative study aimed to identify mechanisms that enhance SEL and mental health. Six elementary teachers participated in focus groups following the implementation of a SEL intervention, Faith and Wellness: A Daily Mental Health Resource. Results indicated 5 key mechanisms supporting SEL: 1) whole class approach; 2) new vocabulary and shared language; 3) easy-to-learn and reliable practices; 4) transferable SEL strategies; and 5) improvements in teacher’s own SEL knowledge and confidence. Findings can be used to support prevention and intervention practices, and encourage individuals working with young people to adopt useful strategies to support students’ SEL and mental health.

View a PDF of this presentation

Additional Resources:

Project information from the Andrews Relationships Lab LINK

Faith and Wellness Resource LINK

co-presenter: Vera Woloshyn, Professor, Educational Studies

Exploring Practices of Wellness and Resiliency in Educational Settings

Provides an overview of how individuals at three different levels – students in a teacher preparation program, practicing teachers in school boards, and graduate students and faculty members working in higher education – cope with stress, maintain their well-being and exhibit resiliency. Implications and future directions for research are also discussed.

View a PDF of this presentation  

Visit Professor Dr. Savage’s faculty page

Visit Professor Dr. Woloshyn’s faculty page

Additional resources: 

Woloshyn, V., Savage, M.J., Kaefer, T., Martinovic, D., & Ratkovic, S. (2021). Support, mentorship and well-being in Canadian and Croatian Faculties of Education: Professor and Student Perspectives. Journal of Education and Development, 5(1), 82-101. LINK     

Woloshyn, V., Savage, M.J., Ratkovic, S., Hands, C., & Martinovic, D. (2019). Exploring professors’ experiences supporting graduate student well-being in Ontario faculties of education. International Journal of Mentoring and Coaching in Education. LINK   

Woloshyn, V., & Savage, M.J. (2018). Sharing narratives to foster mental health literacy in teacher candidates. Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 9(2). LINK 

Evaluation of Archway: A Personalized Program for First-Year Student Success and Mental Health and Wellbeing

First-year students entering postsecondary must navigate a new and complex academic and social environment. Research indicates that this transition is challenging and stressful – academically, emotionally and socially – and can have negative impacts on mental health and wellbeing during what is an important developmental period. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the incoming 2020 cohort of first-year students will face heightened and new challenges. Most will have spent the conclusion of high school learning virtually while in quarantine in an uncertain and difficult time, to then experience their first year of university living, learning and socializing off-campus, virtually and remotely. In response to COVID-19 and with an appreciation of the considerable stresses students face generally, and particularly in 2020-21 and the potential effects on mental health and well-being, McMaster University has developed an innovative program to support students, entitled Archway. This presentation will describe a CIHR-funded project investigating the impact of Archway.

View a PDF of this presentation 

Visit Dr. Kwan’s faculty page

Additional resources:

Archway (McMaster University) LINK

Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey LINK

Section 4

The information shared in these presentations is not intended as, nor should be considered, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Application of an Integrated Framework:  A Reflective Praxis for Addressing Student Mental Health

There is an ever-growing high need for mental health support, which has been exacerbated by the difficult conditions of living through the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, we have created a theoretical amalgam to inform a practical approach implemented at Brock University to support students who experience mental health challenges.  At its core, this framework encourages students to increase their self-awareness, develop skills to better cope and manage their symptoms, and take steps to improve their mental health and wellbeing. In this presentation, we will outline the components of the amalgam, illustrate the clinical application, and share preliminary results.

View a PDF of this presentation 

Visit the Mental Health and Wellness section of the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre website

Youth Mental Health Distress during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Need for Healing and Holistic Care for Families

During the pandemic, youth have been faced with compounding issues of isolation, loneliness, fear, and anxiety. This is concerning in itself; and prompts additional concerns about suicide, the second leading cause of death in youth and young adults. Although, there are high rates of youth suicides over the past year in some communities, this has been consistent with the data that youth suicide can fluctuate from year to year. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for screening methods to be conducted effectively and efficiently, and with resources to follow. As healthcare professionals, we must be aware of the impact that youth mental health distress can have on families. One way is to create forums for parents to share their concerns and help provide them with family and natural supports. Potential benefits are to help start pathways for healing and holistic care; in efforts, of moving towards health and wellness.

View a PDF of this presentation 

Visit the website for the Department of Nursing

Additional Resources:

The Secret Path (Gord Downie) LINK

Neurasthenia and the Modern City: Mental Health and Laissez-faire Capitalism in Turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century North America

An epidemic of neurasthenia, a stress-related illness or anxiety disorder with somatic manifestations, swept through Western cities from St. Petersburg to San Francisco at the turn of the twentieth century, causing in city people everything from dyspepsia and headaches to nervous breakdowns and suicide. This urban crisis of mental ill-health arose from still another crisis: unremitting and unforgiving liberal urban development. This paper represents my preliminary investigation into neurasthenia, and supports my contention that neurasthenic mental ill-health fermented in the dystopian consequences of the predations of laissez-faire urban capitalism: insufficient and immiserating housing, labour conditions and wages, coupled with (at best) substandard physical and social infrastructure. Intolerable climatic circumstances, particulate air pollution from bituminous coal use and smell generated by agricultural-industrial activities dependent on and driven by urban animals, only intensified the quotidian angst of city people. Such deliberate urban disorder occurred at the feet of an indifferent capitalist system organized entirely to generate the wealth, comfort and security of the few at the cost of the many.

Visit Professor Mackintosh’s faculty page

About the series

Hosted by the Faculty of Social Sciences, this series aims to showcase the variety of work being conducted by faculty and student researchers across Brock University, to uncover an array of perspectives, and to foster potential synergies and collaborations.

Cross-disciplinary and cross-Faculty participation is encouraged.

Learn how to participate in this Symposium Series.