Decrease font size Reset font size Increase font size

OISE launches the Institute for Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Initiative

May 26, 2021



As many as two million Canadian youth are struggling with mental health issues, yet only one in five receives the treatment and support they need. Clearly, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges our children, youth and young adults face now and going forward. But the pandemic has also pulled back the curtain to reveal how inadequate our current approach is and why this proposal is so essential.

As a world leader in transforming lives through teaching, education research and evidence-based advocacy, the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) believes that the most promising pathway to mental-health system reform starts with education — reinventing the way our schools and educators prevent, identify, support and alleviate child, youth and young adult mental health concerns.

Powered by philanthropy, we will begin our Mental Health and Well-Being Initiative by recruiting a globally-respected expert in youth mental health and then attracting key partners across the education, health and social service sectors to help jumpstart research and demonstration projects aimed at exploring innovative new practices and approaches.

Our combined efforts and investments will set the stage for the subsequent launch of a comprehensive Institute for Student Mental Health and Well-Being at OISE—a hub for local, national and international networking and collaboration. 



The Department of Applied Psychology at OISE is home to a critical mass of more than 20 nationally- and internationally recognized researchers who are leveraging their expertise in mental health and well-being to transform lives and systems, including:

Dr. Jeffrey Ansloos, psychologist, educator, researcher and policy advisor, whose research into the social determinants of the mental health of Indigenous peoples (FNMI), has led to significant culturally-engaged, community-based partnerships in Indigenous health and education.

Dr. Todd Cunningham’s leading-edge work with telepsychology, with partners that include classroom teachers, SickKids and Canada-wide school psychology associations, is transforming how we can support those in remote communities such as those in Ontario’s furthest Northern settings.

Dr. Esther Geva’s pioneering, community-based and research -based approach to mental health and wellness among multicultural, immigrant and bilingual populations, has greatly influenced culturally sensitive policy, training and assessment in North America and beyond.

Dr. Abby Goldstein, Canada Research Chair in the Psychology of Emerging Adulthood has been a key leader in using innovative methods to understand the unique developmental needs of emerging adults and support their mental health, well-being and transition into adulthood.

Dr. Chloe Hamza’s innovative work on post-secondary mental health, and the prevention of self-harm and suicidal behavior, has informed policy and practice in higher education settings both locally and internationally. Her important work with the broader University of Toronto efforts will also leverage other key partnerships.

Dr. Kang Lee’s research on stress and emotion-related disorders in children, adolescents and adults, has led to the development of applications for using smart phones to detect stress and emotion-related disorders.

There are many additional OISE colleagues working in various aspects of mental health and well-being with local, national and global partnerships that are making a difference. This list includes such scholars as:

Dr. Lance T. McCready is the Principal Investigator of the Black Student University Access Network and Restorative Justice African, Caribbean, Black Family Group Conferencing Project.



Gifts from venture philanthropists who share our vision for the urgent need for change will make it possible to:

STEP 1: Recruit an internationally recognized scholar at the intersection of education and mental health to lead this ground-breaking work as OISE’s Professor in Student Mental Health and Well-being. An international search will be underway for the Director of the Institute, but an interim director is already developing the groundwork for a comprehensive Institute for Student Mental Health & Well-being that will act as the catalyst for change. 

STEP 2: Support efforts to identify and attract diverse project partners from across the education, health and social service sectors and spark collaborations about research and strategies — including the opportunity to work with and learn from LGBTQ, racialized and Indigenous communities — and the role OISE and its partners will each play in the process.

STEP 3: Identify and launch priority research and cornerstone demonstration project(s) that have the potential to lead to large-scale, practical solutions while identifying obstacles of resistance and strategies to overcome them.

STEP 4: Assess the impact of the innovation(s) and use that information to share knowledge and drive innovation adoption and scale across other school boards and communities in order to strengthen our capacity for change among education and community-based systems across Ontario, Canada and beyond.

With sustained support and the success of this first critical phase over the next 12 to 18 months, the initiative’s team will scale up their efforts with the recruitment of additional scholars, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.

The long-term vision includes the launch of a Parent/Education Training Collaborative focused on pre- and in-service training and resilience strategies for parents and educators.

The plan will also introduce an incubator approach to drive the development of new technologies to support student mental health and well-being. These many initiatives will come together under the proposed Institute for Student Mental Health and Well-Being at OISE. 

OISE’s Mental Health and Well-Being Initiative is visionary, innovative and grounded in research. Working with diverse education, health and social service partners and with generous philanthropic support, this initiative will build necessary capacity and turn a fragmented, non-system of mental health efforts into a new paradigm of mental health promotion, early identification and effective intervention for children, youth and young adults.


More OISE news

Three universities, one purpose: International scholars come together to discuss Black boys in education

Sports and physical education: Meet OISE Professor Heather Sykes

OISE-led online show makes impact across borders, governments