David Collict, Vanier Scholar 2019

Photo Credit: Adelvon Aguilar (@adelvon)

David Collict, a Master of Arts student at the Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development (APHD) at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) was named a Canadian Vanier scholar for 2019. Recently completing his Master of Arts in Counselling and Clinical Psychology (CCP), David will begin his PhD this Fall at APHD in CCP.

We spoke to David to learn more about him, his research and future plans.

What is your main research focus?

My main research focus is on the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ2 populations. More specifically, this area has a large body of work that already focuses on the negative mental health experiences of LGBTQ2-identified people, showing that these groups experience higher rates of concerns such as anxiety, depression, suicide, substance use and body image issues compared to the general population. We also know that these differences are likely caused by discrimination, often called minority stressors in the literature, relating to someone's sexual and/or gender identity.

So, for example, experiencing verbal or physical harassment relating to your identity as a trans person, or as a gay man, you're more likely to experience negative mental health outcomes, because the general population doesn't experience and internalize these types of discrimination in the same ways as LGBTQ2 people. With this said, I am interested in understanding how, despite experiencing discrimination and harassment, LGBTQ2 people are able to create and foster positive mental health outcomes, such as a sense of life purpose or personal meaning. I am also interested in the factors that might help facilitate this relationship. So, for example, my research asks questions such as, (a) does having family support of your sexual and/or gender identity, or (b) does engaging with queer social advocacy, buffer one's experience of discrimination and harassment, and ultimately contribute to an ability to form life purpose and personal meaning? As it relates to my doctoral dissertation, which is funded by the Vanier scholarship, I am interested in working with queer communities of colour to understand how these experiences may differ within various ethnoracial and cultural communities.

Can you describe your journey to OISE? 

I'm originally from Pickering, Ontario, and I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Neuroscience at Carleton University. As a gay man, I've been extensively involved in LGBTQ2 advocacy, clinical work and research. Since 2010, I've worked with a variety of international organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign and the Matthew Shepard Foundation to develop online advocacy campaigns to encourage the self-esteem and celebration of sexual and gender-diverse youth around the world. I have also sat on the Board of Directors of the York Region chapter of the prominent non-profit, Pflag, facilitating support groups for LGBTQ2-identified people, their families and allies. I have also worked in a variety of community organizations, including the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) and CAMH, co-facilitating psychoeducational and therapeutic groups focusing specifically on the well-being of LGBTQ2 people. Being so involved in these spaces, and through my own lived experiences, I understand the barriers queer people still face in accessing and fully participating in the benefits of society.

I chose to come to OISE because it was an opportunity to explore these barriers in both research and clinical contexts, and to use my experience in advocacy and community settings to inform my work in these areas. OISE's MA/PhD program in Clinical and Counselling Psychology has been a means for me to develop my clinical and research skills, give back to my community and be an ally to other members of the LGBTQ2 community.

What are your future plans?

I hope to continue in the future as a clinician, an academic, and as a researcher. Over the next few years, I would like to continue to work on publications in my areas of interest, and to work in diverse clinical settings to future develop my therapeutic skills. Ideally, I will, one day, have my own psychological practise, and also have time to teach in an academic setting. Regardless of where I go, my heart is in clinical work, because this is where I find my own meaning and sense of purpose.