What role can schools play in providing student mental health supports? Jaime collaborates with high schools in British Columbia to adapt, implement, and evaluate mental health literacy interventions with an aim to build capacity for promoting student wellbeing, reducing stigma, and effectively supporting students who experience mental health difficulties.

 
William McKee
La Salle
Canada
UBC Public Scholars Award
 

Research Description

As many as 20% of adolescents in Canada experience a diagnosable mental health problem, and many do not receive the support they need. For young people who do end up receiving support, many get it at school. Schools can build their capacity for providing school-based mental health supports by increasing their mental health literacy; this includes developing the knowledge and skills that facilitate recognizing, supporting, and preventing mental health challenges, as well as promoting positive mental health. In my research, I collaborate with schools to adapt and implement mental health literacy interventions that fit the needs of the community. In addition to traditional program evaluation methods, I conduct in-depth interviews to gain an understanding of the lived experiences of various stakeholders who take part in the interventions. The perspectives of students, teachers, and administrators can help to identify unexpected barriers and perceived factors that facilitate intervention success.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

To me, being a public scholar means conducting research in partnership with the community that is meaningful for all stakeholders involved. This means striving to conduct research that can be immediately useful within the community setting, which could involve implementing and evaluating an intervention in response to an identified need, or engaging in knowledge translation activities so that research findings can be used by community members. Additionally, public scholarship means employing research methodologies that facilitate and promote community engagement, such as qualitative methods that highlight the voices of community stakeholders.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

The Public Scholars Initiative will help to raise awareness about the alternate career paths beyond the university that PhD students are pursuing, and the different ways that students can both engage and serve the community while conducting their dissertation research. Since I am just beginning my PhD, I am excited to learn from the unique experiences and perspectives of others involved in this initiative, and be inspired to think outside the box as I continue to develop my dissertation.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

In the field of applied psychology we are trained as both practitioners and researchers, so school psychologists pursue careers in a wide variety of settings including universities, hospitals, school districts, and in private practice. But I think our dual role as a scientist-practitioner can at times be more aspirational than realistic, meaning there might not always be room for school psychologists employed as practitioners in the community to remain actively engaged in research, and vice versa. By continuing to build relationships and collaborate with the community during my PhD research, I hope to explore they ways that assuming a role as both a practitioner and researcher can be realized within schools and other community settings.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

Through my research I work directly with stakeholders in schools, including students, teachers, and administrators. Other sectors also have a stake in the issues surrounding youth mental health, including primary healthcare, and community mental health organizations, so I think there could also be opportunities for further collaboration and engagement beyond the school setting in my research.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

I work with schools to build capacity for supporting student mental health with the goal of positively impacting student outcomes related to resiliency and overall wellbeing; increasingly school districts across Canada are recognizing and taking on this important role. I hope that my work can contribute to increased dialogue and awareness surrounding the importance of school-based mental health supports.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

My employment and volunteer experiences during my undergraduate studies led me to grad school. I supported students with physical and intellectual disabilities in school and recreational settings, and worked with at-risk youth in an emergency shelter. These experiences led to a desire to continue my education to build my skillset for working with youth with complex needs and to learn more about the systems through which we support them.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

I chose to study School Psychology at UBC for my master’s degree because the framework of the program provided opportunities to both gain extensive practical experience and engage in research. I am continuing at UBC for my doctoral studies because I wish to continue to work with my research supervisor and expand on the relationships I have built with community collaborators.

 

Public scholarship means employing research methodologies that facilitate and promote community engagement, such as qualitative methods that highlight the voices of community stakeholders".