MacEwan University is pleased to announce that Dr. Margot Jackson, associate professor in the Faculty of Nursing, has received a research grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Dr. Kristopher Wells, director of MacEwan’s Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity, will also take part in the project, along with collaborators from the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services.

This marks the first time a MacEwan faculty member has received funding from the CIHR, Canada's federal funding agency for health research.

“We are thrilled for Dr. Jackson and her collaborators,” says Dr. Craig Monk, provost & vice-president, Academic. “This grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research speaks to the necessity and timeliness of this research.”

The grant, which totals $290,150 over two years, is designated for research that addresses the wider health impacts of COVID-19. Dr. Jackson’s research will look specifically at the effect of the pandemic on the experiences of children and youth waiting for mental health services.

The study will employ narrative inquiry, a method that follows a small number of participants closely over the course of the study.

“I'm a qualitative researcher. Hearing people's stories provides so much information about what's going on in our systems. Even though the sample size is small, the richness of the information is so valuable,” explains Dr. Jackson of her approach. “It's a way to give voice to people whose voices often aren’t heard.”

The study aims to explore how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenges faced by children and youth seeking mental health services, and to use the findings to help strengthen the health-care system’s ability to provide these types of supports.

“This study comes from years of observing issues within the mental health system, particularly for children and youth,” says Dr. Jackson. “There never seems to be enough services or enough service providers available. Families often don’t know where to even begin looking for help. Wait times are too long. So we see people falling through the cracks.”

This study builds on Dr. Jackson’s body of research, which has focused on youth mental health, often engaging youth creatively, using media like photography and journaling to encourage them to share their experiences.

“I previously worked as a nurse at Youth Empowerment Support Services (YESS), and I loved sitting with the kids and just talking with them and hearing their lives,” she explains. “I remember thinking, ‘I wish everybody could hear what they're saying.’ So a lot of my research started from that experience.”

Receiving a CIHR grant is a significant milestone for MacEwan’s research program, which has been steadily growing.

“Over the past few years, we have seen scholarship at MacEwan grow significantly,” says Dr. Monk. “Our faculty are leading cutting-edge research in multiple fields and being supported and recognized at the national level. This is an exciting time for scholarship at our institution.”

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