extracted from Spring 2018 edition of "Dialogues", newsletter of the Dept. of Educational and Counselling Psychology
Dr. Nancy Heath’s research team was recently renamed the Development and Intrapersonal Resilience (DAIR) research team, which perfectly summarizes the team’s main focus. The DAIR team studies mental health across various developmental stages, with an emphasis on theoretical and practical applications of emotion regulatory processes in stress, coping, nonsuicidal self-injury, and mindfulness in educational settings.
Dr. Nancy Heath is a James McGill Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies with McGill University's Faculty of Education. She has published and presented extensively on topics related to mental health and resilience in educational settings. She is also a cofounder and past president of the International Society for the Study of Self-injury and co-director of the non-profit online organization, Self-injury Outreach and Support. She is an internationally recognized leader in the area of self-injury in educational settings and has worked in collaboration with schools for more than 20 years.
The DAIR research team is comprised of 12 graduate students from a variety of Master’s and PhD programs in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology. The team is also comprised of 30 committed research volunteers and research assistants, who play an integral role in the many research-related tasks such as project coordination, data collection and data entry.
The DAIR team is a prolific research team with many ongoing projects at McGill and in the community at the elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. For instance, in collaboration with Lester B. Pearson School Board’s Family and School Support Treatment Team (FSSTT), the DAIR team is currently working on a grant funded by the Ministère de l'Éducation et de L’Enseignement Supérieur. The purpose of this grant is to develop a multi-level emotion regulation classroom program to support student learning and well-being for grade 5 and 6 students preparing to transition to high school. In addition to research in the elementary school setting, the DAIR team is currently conducting a Mindfulness in Schools (MIS) project, which seeks to provide a better understanding of the elements of mindfulness and their role adolescents’ school adjustment and well-being.
In fall 2017, the DAIR research team conducted a stress and coping study with over 3,500 university students. This study represents the third university stress and coping study conducted in the past three years, comprised of a stress and coping survey of over 9,000 McGill students. The DAIR team has also collaborated with McGill’s Faculty of Medicine on the development and delivery of a brief mindfulness-based workshop to enhance performance and well-being of medical residents.
In addition to supporting the mental health of students and residents, the DAIR team (on behalf of McGill’s Faculty of Education) has led a number of projects focusing on enhancing teachers’ mental health and well-being. These projects, undertaken with the support and collaboration of the Rossy Family Foundation, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, seek to enhance teachers’ mental health resilience and well-being at a national level.
The DAIR team also investigates various topics surrounding non-suicidal self-injury using both empirical and experimental methods. This includes studies of emotion regulatory processes, contributors of self-injury through developmental transitions, and investigations of the online behaviours for those with self-injury. In all their research the DAIR team works in collaboration with participants, ensuring that the research is informed and guided by those experiencing diﬃculties.
Community outreach and support are very important initiatives for members of the DAIR research team as well. On behalf of the Faculty of Education at McGill and in collaboration with the McConnell Foundation, the DAIR research team co-hosted a National Summit on Teacher and School Staﬀ Well-being in Montreal in the fall of 2017. Teachers, university faculty members, union representatives, school board members, non-profit mental health organizations, government employees in the mental health commission, and many others from across the country gathered over two days to discuss the status of teacher and school staﬀ well-being in national and provincial/territory-specific contexts.
An additional outreach initiative, founded by DAIR Research Team’s Ryan Golt, is Stronger than Stigma (STS): a student run mental health program at McGill. The overarching goal of STS is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health diﬃculties and illnesses.
Throughout the past year, a number of workshops have been presented to clinicians, mental health professionals, medical and dental students, as well as education students at McGill University. Topics covered included responding to engagement in non-suicidal self-injury, implementation of mindfulness strategies, and dealing with students’ anxiety and depression in elementary classrooms.
Research project meetings, as well as publication group meetings in which conference presentations and journal publications are reviewed and discussed are regular occurrences for the DAIR Research Team. With over 11 published peer-reviewed articles and 33 conference presentations in the last year alone, these meetings are essential to the team’s scholarly productivity. In addition, the team has regular social events including lunch or drinks at Thomson House to Escape Room activities.
Overall, the DAIR research team is a dynamic, ambitious, and productive team that works towards improving the mental health and well-being of individuals across various developmental stages in educational settings.
For more information about Dr. Nancy Heath or the DAIR research team, please visit the website: www.dairheathresearchteam.mcgill.ca