Navi Mental Health Wayfinder

2022-2023 funded Research

Inlight supports novel student mental health and wellness research at the University of Toronto through a number of annual funding programs. Funded projects demonstrate alignment with Inlight’s guiding principles, with a particular emphasis on student engagement, interdisciplinary research excellence, and knowledge mobilization

We are pleased to introduce the research projects and teams awarded funding through the 2022-2023 programs to new support research and innovation in postsecondary student mental health research.

Inlight Research


Inlight Knowledge Synthesis Grants

Inlight Strategic Research Grants

Research Grants

About the Program

The 2022 Inlight Research Grant program provided funding to support the connection of the University of Toronto’s diverse communities of students, researchers, staff and partners seeking to co-create and advance postsecondary student mental health and wellness through high-quality, impactful research and scalable research innovations. 

Dalla lana school of public health

Mapping Services to Support the Mental Health Needs of Diverse 2SLGBTQ+ Students Across the University of Toronto

Primary Investigator: Professor Daniel Grace
About the Project

In this project, we seek to address the gaps in data regarding the unique mental health needs of diverse Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (2SLGBTQ+) students at the University of Toronto. Working with and alongside students, we seek to understand to what extent the university has been able to meet the mental health care needs of 2SLGBTQ+ students and to understand how other aspects of students’ identities, such as gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status impact care. In addition to generating new data, this project will work with students directly to co-create accessible mental health resources for 2SLGBTQ+ students and will raise recommendations for how to increase and improve mental health services at the university.

Research Team

Dr. Daniel Grace, Associate Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Ariel Gould, PhD Student, Dalla Lana School of Public Health 

Dr. Dana Seitler, Professor, Department of English, & Director, Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies 

Dr. Suzanne Sicchia, Associate Professor, Department of Health & Society, UTSC 

Sarah Smith, Research Associate, Centre for Sexual and Gender Minority Health Research

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)

Anti-Black Racism and Mental Health in Higher Education: Perspectives of Current and Prospective Post-secondary Students in a Canadian Context

Primary Investigator: Professor Linda Iwenofu
About the Project

Exposure to anti-Black racism (ABR) in institutional and community contexts is associated with negative mental health and educational outcomes (e.g., depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor academic self-concept, premature dropout) for youth and emerging adults seeking higher education. In a collaboration between UofT and a youth-serving community organization, the purpose of this project is to explore current and prospective Black postsecondary students’ perceptions and experiences of racial discrimination within university contexts, identify ways in which these experiences impact their mental health, and explore their experiences of on-campus mental health supports for coping with ABR. This will aid with the identification of culturally responsive opportunities for improvement of campus mental health supports and advance knowledge on effective ways to prepare and support Black students aiming to attend university.

Research Team

Linda Iwenofu, Assistant Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)

Esther Geva, Professor, Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, OISE

Shawna Grossman, PhD Student, School and Clinical Child Psychology, OISE

Harmoni Watson, Masters Student, School and Clinical Child Psychology, OISE

Esther Enyolu, Executive Director, Women’s Multicultural Resource and Counseling Center of Durham

University of  Toronto Scarborough

Capturing the Diversity of Student Experience to Enhance the Validity of Measures of Mental Health Symptoms

Primary Investigator: Professor Anthony Ruocco
About the Project

Measurement-based care (MBC) is an empirically promising practice in mental health treatment that continually assesses the clients’ symptoms, behaviours, and functioning via questionnaires to help clinicians make treatment decisions. However, traditional student mental health questions are framed without consideration of the cultural and environmental contexts in which students are immersed. Thus, this project will develop and validate context-specific mental health questionnaires by asking students to report if they capture their experiences and identities more accurately than traditional assessments, while analysing which is superior in predicting key student-related outcomes. Ultimately, we hope to provide insight into students’ intersectionality with mental health experiences.

Research Team

Dr. Anthony C. Ruocco, Professor, Graduate Chair and Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychological Clinical Science 

Michael Carnovale, PhD Student, Psychology

Dr. Amanda Uliaszek, Associate Professor, Psychology and Psychological Clinical Science

Sheila John, Assistant Dean, Wellness, Recreation and Sport, University of Toronto Scarborough

Orly Lipsitz, Master’s Student, Clinical Psychology

Denise Silva, Student & President, Mental Unity Group

Zainab Issa, Student & President, Psychological Health Society 

Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education

Exercise for Mental Health

Primary Investigator: Professor Catherine Sabiston
About the Project

Exercise is an alternative therapy for acute care of mental health symptoms among students. Individualized and supervised exercise programs are supported and deemed acceptable by on-campus professionals and help-seeking students, and we have developed a referral pathway. We have found significant improvements in mental health symptoms following six-week exercise programs. However, the long-term effects are unknown and less resource-intensive exercise programs may be beneficial. This study aims to address these important gaps for on-campus lifestyle management of student mental health by testing equivalence of group to individual exercise programs, examining exercise effects on mental health over time, and completing a process evaluation. 

Research Team

Dr. Catherine Sabiston, Professor & Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity and Mental Health, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education  

Dr. Sandra Yuen, Professional Practice & Quality Assurance at Health & Wellness, Student Life Programs and Services, University of Toronto

Dr. Madison Vani, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Toronto

Knowledge Synthesis Grants

About the Program
The 2022 Inlight Knowledge Synthesis funding program provided funding to support rapid knowledge mobilization of evidence related to postsecondary student mental health and wellness at the University of Toronto.  

Faculty of Arts and Science

Learning Resilience, envisioning well-being: Syncing mental health discourses and synthesizing knowledge

Primary Investigator: Professor Antje Budde
About the Project

This project explores potentials of arttech for well-being with a focus on student mental health at U of T. The Digital Dramaturgy Labsquared (DDL2) will test two prototypes of performance-based interactive and participatory interfaces/interspaces designed to help students engage in a playful and game-based self-learning process and better understanding of their status of mental health and well-being through active psycho-physical engagement. Through student interaction with these interfaces/interspaces, group feedback and mixed quantitative-qualitative interviews/surveys we hope to determine to what extent U of T students of diverse backgrounds finds these game-based and holistic interactions useful in understanding and maintaining good mental health in the challenging environment of a competitive university but also find a space for mindfulness, community and self-care.

Research Team

Dr. Antje Budde, Professor and artistic research director, Digital Dramaturgy Lab_squared (DDL2), Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies

Rahul Bhat, U of T Student Life, Resilience Program 

Kate Bowers, U of T Student Life, Resilience Program 

Renusha Athugala, Assistant Professor, RMIT University

Sebastian Samur, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies

Dr. Mark Chignell, Professor, Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE), FASE

Candy Otsíkh:èta Blair, Indigenous two-spirit community collaborator, Sketch

Dalla Lana School of Public Health

A systematic review and meta-analysis of the variation of mental health outcomes among post-secondary students during the COVID-19 pandemic

Primary Investigator: Professor France Gagnon & Altea Kthupi
About the Project

Our research examines changes in mental health symptoms of post-secondary students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a time marked by inconclusive findings. Despite numerous studies analyzing the pandemic’s effects on students’ mental health, discernible trends remain elusive. Some research points to exacerbated depression, anxiety, and other mental health symptoms, while others suggest improvement or stabilization. A literature review and meta-analyses are essential to synthesize evidence, identify patterns, and inform research, as findings highlight the need to understand context-dependent pandemic reactions, mental health shifts, and factors affecting student resilience and susceptibility. Our systematic review and meta-analysis findings could shape future postsecondary policies concerning resource allocation during various pandemic phases and identifying at-risk student populations.

Research Team

Dr. France Gagnon, Associate Dean of Research, Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Altea Kthupi, Doctoral Student, Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Dr. Shaza Fadel, Assistant Professor and Director of Operations at the Centre for Vaccine Preventable Diseases, Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Dr. Chloe Hamza, Associate Professor, OISE

Bill Liu, Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Antonio Lorenzo, Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Strategic Research Grants

About the Program

The Strategic Research Grants program builds on the existing infrastructure of the Inlight Research Grant Program to provide directed funding support to priority research topics. In March 2023 and in response to priorities identified during the Inlight strategic planning process and reiterated by the Student Advisory Committee, Inlight launched a Strategic Research Grant call to advance understanding and impact of the intersectionality of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Accessibility and Indigeneity (EDIAI) on student mental health and wellbeing at the University of Toronto.

University of Toronto Scarborough

The intersection of Mental Wellness and Disability Services in the Postsecondary Setting

Primary Investigator: Professor Amanda Uliaszek
About the Project

In postsecondary settings, the demand for mental health, wellness and learning support far exceeds the ability of students in need to gain access to these services. Like many service providers on postsecondary campuses, disability services have been confronted with increasing levels of severity, complexity, and frequency of mental health distress, without associated increases in resources, or adapted service models to address this growing issue. The current project will examine key academic and health outcomes for students registered with UofT’s tri-campus AccessAbility Services. This service model was developed to primarily address learning and physical disabilities, and as such, less is known regarding the impact of AccessAbility on student mental health, or the unique needs of students with a primary mental health disability. This study will allow for a better understanding of the unique needs of students, identify specific gaps in service delivery models and highlight possible areas for intervention.

Research Team

Dr. Amanda Uliaszek, Associate Professor, Department of Psychology (UTSC) & Graduate Department of Psychological Clinical Science  

Maya Ahia, Graduate Student, Graduate Department of Psychological Clinical Science 

Tina Doyle Director, AccessAbility Services UTSC  

Elizabeth Martin, Director, AccessAbility Services UTM  

Michael Nicholson, Director, AccessAbility Services UTSG  

Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education

A Critical Race Analysis of Institutional Factors that Impact Mental Health, Retention and Academic Success Among Racialized Graduate Students – A Mixed Methods Study

Primary Investigator: Professor Janelle Joseph
About the Project

While preliminary research exists that examines the mental health experiences of racialized undergraduate students in the Canadian context, there is little information about the mental health experiences of racialized graduate students. The University of Toronto has flourishing diversity; however, many racialized graduate students continue to face significant challenges and barriers to their mental health which impacts their academic success. The current study employs a critical race theory (CRT) analysis to expose the institutional factors that shape the intersectional barriers faced by racialized graduate students in healthrelated research, course-based, and professional streams. By centring racialized graduate students’ experiences, this project will identify institutional barriers to EDIAI and develop evidencebased interventions and policies to improve their mental health outcomes and academic success. 

Research Team

Dr. Janelle Joseph, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education

Dr. Monica Aggarwal, Assistant Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health

Mrs. Zeana Hamdonah, PhD student, Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education

Dr. Kaleigh Pennock, Postdoctoral Scholar & Lab Coordinator, IDEAS Research Lab


To learn more about our current and upcoming funding programs, please visit our Opportunities page.