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Drysdale Awarded Two Grants for Post-Secondary Education and Mental Health Research

Drysdale Awarded Two Grants for Post-Secondary Education and Mental Health Research

Date: Monday, January 15, 2018
St. Jerome’s University Psychology professor Dr. Maureen Drysdale has been awarded grants totalling $93,876.10 to examine equitable access to post-secondary education and training and to support the development of an e-mental health solution for young adults. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has provided $64,053 in funding, and the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development’s Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund (OHCRIF) has awarded $29,823.10.
 
As the Government of Canada's health research investment agency, the CIHR supports excellence across all four pillars of health research: biomedical, clinical, health systems services, and population health. Its mandate is to "excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system." The OHCRIF supports research and innovation projects that identify better ways to help people prepare for, return to, or keep employment and become productive participants in the labour force.
 
Both sources of funding are well aligned with Drysdale’s research work at St. Jerome’s University, which focuses on school-to-school and school-to-work transitions and how variables such as learning environments, access, skill acquisitions, and overall mental health lead to or impede success. A primary focus of this work has been on examining factors believed to be important for successful transitions, including self-efficacy, peer and social support, sense-of- belonging, anxiety, depression, and other mental health constructs. Drysdale has a particular interest in vulnerable populations as well as the role that work-integrated learning has on mental health and the transition to and success in the labour market. She is currently leading a new international study that spans five countries, examining the differences in work-readiness and mental health outcomes of students preparing for full-time permanent work.
 
The OHCRIF grant will allow Drysdale’s team to examine equitable access to post-secondary education and training and help identify the barriers and challenges faced by students transitioning from high school to university or college.
Drysdale reports that “this is especially important for vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations who are at a higher risk for mental health problems”.
 
“The CIHR grant will support the creation of an effective e-mental health solution that can specifically address the support and belonging needs of emerging adults who are attending post-secondary education, transitioning into a competitive labour market, and/or adapting to a new workplace,” states Drysdale. “This can make a significant contribution in reducing the incidence of work related stress and mental illness throughout the life course, in addition to having national economic implications.”
 
Shortly after receiving this grant, Drysdale and her graduate student Margaret McBeath (from School of Public Health and Health Systems and a co-applicant on the grant), participated in a three-day Mental Health Hackathon, where they worked with designers and programmers to design and develop a demo for their e-mental health solution. At the end of the three days, they had three minutes to pitch their demo to an audience of several hundred and a panel of judges representing insurance companies, marketing and communications companies, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and CIHR. Their team was awarded one of the top prizes. Cossette Health matched their CIHR funds and is now working with them to develop and market their e-mental health solution. The additional support will help the team launch their application in the spring of 2018.
 
Drysdale describes the hackathon experience as “Surreal, like a reality television show. It felt like we were on Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den, but what’s so exciting is that we won and can now develop a much-needed e-mental solution for emerging adults suffering from mental health problems.”
 
“Dr. Drysdale’s research on mental health among emerging adults and students is both timely and important,” notes St. Jerome’s University’s Vice President Academic and Dean Scott Kline. “The demands and expectations on students – attaining high marks in university, getting the right co-op placements, and finding the right job upon graduation, to name just a few – can create debilitating stress and anxiety, especially if students are without adequate support networks. Dr. Drysdale’s research can help service providers and educational professionals get students the supports they need to flourish.”
 
For more information on Drysdale’s research, visit her research lab website.