Contextual, Ambient, and Macro-Level Stressors on Mental Health and Well-Being

Thursday May 19 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time)
Virtual Platform

Session Code: SMH3
Session Format: Regular Session
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Sociology of Mental Health
Session Categories: Regular Session

This session will focus on contextual, ambient, and macro-level stressors, along with variation in their mental health consequences as a function of social status. Reflecting upon the past two years, examples of these stressors include, but are not limited to: climate change and other related natural disasters such as wildfires and floods; the Covid-19 pandemic and its far-reaching impacts on work, family, and social life; and the political, social, and economic unrest associated with activist movements such as Idle No More and Black Lives Matter. Tags: COVID-19, Environment, Mental Health, Social Movements

Organizers: Jinette Comeau, King's University College, Western University, Marisa Young, McMaster University; Chair: Marisa Young, McMaster University


Min Zhou, University of Victoria

COVID-19-Related Social Stigma and Its Impact on Psychological Distress in Wuhan, China

Health-related social stigma arises from the perceived association between a person or group of certain characteristics and a specific disease. COVID-19 has brought about social stigma targeted at individuals and groups who are perceived to be connected with the virus. Wuhan of China was not only the locale where the first COVID-19 cases were detected in the world but was also the hardest hit across China. Using original data (N=1153) from a survey conducted in Wuhan in August 2020, this study aims to reveal the social stigma experienced by residents in Wuhan during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of this stigma on their mental health, specifically psychological distress. It finds that more than two-thirds of Wuhan residents have stigmatizing experiences in some form, either online or in person. Moreover, this stigma not only aggravates individuals’ psychological distress in general but also elevates the chance of developing clinically significant distress symptoms.

Sanam Vaghefi, University of Victoria

Refugee Mental Health during the Asylum Waiting Process: A Qualitative Study of Turkish and Canadian Contexts

This paper was selected by the Sociology of Mental Health Research Cluster for their Best Student Paper Award.

While the migrant health literature suggests that forced migration and refugee status negatively affect mental health, fewer studies focus on the mental health of refugee claimants waiting to be granted asylum. In addition, despite the high numbers of refugee claimants in the Global South, fewer studies attempt to compare refugee experiences globally. This study attempts to address these gaps by focusing on the mental health of refugee claimants from Iran, which has been one of the main refugee-sending countries since the 1980s. Focusing on the Turkish and Canadian contexts, which are subsequently significant destination countries in the Global South and North, the study asks the following questions: How does the waiting process affect Iranian refugees mental health and wellbeing? How do their lived experiences of mental health and wellbeing differ based on the country of temporary asylum? In-depth qualitative phenomenological interviews were conducted with 15 Iranian refugees who left Iran after 2009 and lived in Canada. Nine of them spent their waiting process in Turkey, and six others spent it in Canada. The interviews were transcribed and coded using Dedoose, a qualitative analysis software. The analysis results show that the waiting process is characterized by a sense of temporariness, lack of belonging, precarity, and uncertainty of the future. These features of the waiting process frequently lead to adverse mental health outcomes, particularly worry, anxiety, lack of motivation, and depressive symptoms. The lack of financial assistance and work permits were mentioned as the major challenges of spending a waiting process in Turkey, compared to Canada. Yet, a majority of participants mentioned having community support and solidarity networks in Turkey, in contrast to Canada. The research is concluded with brief suggestions for future research.

Christopher Campbell, University of Manitoba; Ley Fraser, University of Manitoba; Tracey Peter, University of Manitoba

The impact of school attachment and parental involvement on the positive mental health of 2SLGBTQ+ students during the COVID-19 pandemic

Preliminary research conducted by Statistics Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic found significant reductions in mental health (Findlay and Arim 2020) and life satisfaction ratings (Statistics Canada 2020a), particularly among younger Canadians (Arim, Findlay and Kohen 2020, Statistics Canada 2020b). Isolation and disrupted social networks hit Canadian youth hard. More than a third (37%) of young Canadians felt more disconnected from their community (such as friends and support networks); 80% said their opportunities for social connections were more difficult (Kishchuk 2020). The public health measures which prompted isolation pose unique threats to LGBTQ2+ [sic] people (for example, LGBTQ2+ youth who may be required to isolate at home with homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic family members; Prokopenko 2020). Modifications to the education system cut off access to school-based supports and positive social connections outside the home, as well as recreational activities and any supportive adults (e.g., coaches, counselors) present in these various area (Green, Price-Feeney and Dorison 2020). Further, impacts of COVID-19 are being felt more acutely among minority groups like 2SLGBTQ+ people (e.g., Lefevor et al. 2019). Low mental health in LGBTQI2S people was nearly double that of the general population (41% of LGBTQI2S people reported their mental health was fair/poor compared to 21% of overall Canadian sample (Egale Canada 2020a)). While the above research provides preliminary insights on the impact of COVID-19 on the health and wellbeing of 2SLGBTQ+ youth, it does not address the specific situation of 2SLGBTQ+ youth within school settings. Specifically, what is missing (and what this current study offers) is an analysis which examines the ties between positive mental health, and social supports (school attachment and parental support) for school-age 2SLGBTQ+ youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jinette Comeau, King's University College, Western University

Using linked survey and health administrative data to study child mental health disparities in the general population

The linkage of detailed survey data with high quality health administrative data provides new opportunities to ask policy relevant questions regarding child mental health disparities in the general population. With large scale population-based surveys decreasing in scope and frequency due to dwindling response rates and the costs associated with implementing them, researchers are increasingly relying on health administrative data to study children’s mental health, which is routinely collected in publicly funded health systems. Many of the limitations of health administrative data, including selection bias inherent within the sample and the lack of demographic characteristics beyond age and sex, can be overcome when it is enriched with survey data. Drawing upon results from research using the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study linked with health administrative data (i.e. medical services covered under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan derived from the Claims History Database, Discharge Abstract Database, and National Ambulatory Care Reporting System), this presentation will discuss the strengths and limitations of survey data, health administrative data, and their linkage for studying child mental health disparities in the general population.