Dr. Kristin Cleverley awarded Institutional Strategic Initiatives funding for “Mental Health for Students and Youth” research

8 July 2020

Dr. Kristin Cleverley has been awarded one year of Institutional Strategic Initiatives (ISI) funding from the University of Toronto (U of T) to develop an ISI Development & Launch proposal for a research initiative on “Mental Health for Students and Youth”. This initiative will establish a unique network focused on research excellence in youth and student mental health to provide research-informed, evidence-based solutions to the challenges identified by U of T’s Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health.

In 2019, the majority of post-secondary students self-reported “feeling so depressed in the last twelve months that it was difficult to function” on the National College Health Assessment survey. Additionally, Health Canada indicates that one in five Canadians will experience mental health issues in their lifetime, with 70% of those experiencing onset before the age of 18.

In response to these trends, U of T’s Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health released its final report in January 2020. The Task Force recommended the University “utilize our expertise in mental health research at the University to establish an institutional strategic research initiative focused on student mental health”.

At present time, there is a substantial gap in research evidence on the mental health needs of university students. This knowledge gap contributes to rising concerns over effective mental health programs on campus, service design and delivery. The vision and activities of this network will be developed and refined by a steering committee, that will be recruited through an open process and will include researchers from all three U of T campuses and CAMH to address these gaps.

Once established, the steering committee will engage with key stakeholders through a series of diverse advisory groups, including students, administrators, and clinicians at all three U of T campuses. This inclusive and participatory approach is unique, and serves as a powerful foundation for future initiatives and programs in mental health care design and delivery in a university-setting.

The steering committee – with input from advisory groups – will collaboratively determine research directions that address the initiative’s goals to:

  • advance knowledge and/or develop solutions to complex issues related to mental health and mental health program design and delivery that require cross-divisional collaborations and integrated, interdisciplinary approaches;
  • develop and evaluate new internationally recognized solutions to post-secondary student mental health challenges;
  • identify or develop shared mental health resources and/or facilities that can support student and youth mental health;
  • provide opportunities for the accelerated translation of practice and the dissemination of results into the public domain; and
  • leverage other aspects of the CAMH and U of T collaboration, including:
    • helping to transform our system of campus-based services;
    • creating integrated care pathways between campus-based services and CAMH; and
    • providing enhanced clinical education programs in student mental health for U of T trainees in the health professions.

This process will be led by Dr. Cleverley, the CAMH Chair in Nursing Mental Health Research in the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing. She is also Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at U of T, and a Senior Scientist at CAMH. Dr. Cleverley researches student/youth mental health and leads several large tri-council grants on the development of youth mental health, access to mental health care, and co-design/evaluation of clinical interventions for youth with mental health and addictions at U of T and CAMH.

The intended outcome of this one-year process is for the steering committee to develop and submit a full ISI proposal to fund a strategic research initiative on Mental Health for Students and Youth. Further details will be provided this summer along with a call for nominations to serve on the steering committee.

About the University of Toronto Institutional Strategic Initiatives (ISI)

The mandate of the Institutional Strategic Initiatives (ISI) portfolio is to seed, launch and sustain large-scale interdisciplinary strategic research networks with scholars from multiple units and divisions; meaningful tri-campus representation; the potential for high impact scholarship and training; and the potential to secure external funding.