Rye mental illness stigma project gets $3 million grant

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Nursing professor Sepali Guruge will explore new ways to reduce the stigma of mental illness among Asian men and boys. PHOTO COURTESY OF RYERSON UNIVERSITY

By Deni Verklan

A Ryerson research project addressing stigma of mental illness among boys and men in Asian immigrant communities in Canada received a $3 million grant from the Movember Foundation on Oct. 23.

The project will involve a total of 2,160 men, aged 17 and up. The research will be conducted in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto with the help of researchers from the University Health Network, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Simon Fraser University and the University of Calgary.

“This is the very first study in Canada that targets stigma of mental illnesses within immigrant communities. This will be a groundbreaking study,” said the principal investigator Sepali Guruge, a professor at Ryerson’s Daphne Cockwell School of Nurs- ing. “We’re hoping to develop a large number of mental health ambassadors… [who] will poten-

tially mobilize other men, women, and children to address stigma of mental illness in their communi- ties. This approach allows for the work to continue beyond the du- ration of the study.”

The leaders of the project, Ry- erson Nursing professors Souraya Sidani and Josephine Wong along with Guruge, will apply two inter- vention methods called acceptance commitment training and contact- based empowerment education to address the stigma of mental illness. The interventions were adapted from research on reduc- ing the stigma of HIV by the Com- mittee for Accessible AIDS Treat- ment led by researchers Alan Li, Kenneth Fung and Wong.

“These interventions target stig- ma at the individual, family, com- munity and societal levels, which will be key to the success of these interventions because targeting just one level of society will not have a long lasting effect,” Guruge said.

Surveys taken before, right after and several months after the inter- vention will provide data on the

PHOTO: COURTESY RYERSON UNIVERSITY Nursing professor Sepali Guruge will explore new ways to reduce the stigma of mental illness among Asian men and boys.

effectiveness of the anti-stigma in- terventions. Ryerson students will be involved in taking the study to the communities, recruiting par- ticipants, and engaging in data collection, analysis and dissemi- nation of study findings, Guruge said.

“This project addresses an im- portant issue,” said Wendy Cuki- er, Ryerson’s vice president of re- search and innovation. “It fits in with Ryerson’s mission [to serve and engage the needs of the com- munity].”

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