Saskatchewan Polytechnic project receives Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation grant for study on Indigenous adolescent mental health supports

Image credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

The community-based participatory action research study explores the potential use of virtual reality technology to promote mental health and wellbeing

The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) awarded a $50,000 Innovation Grant for a Saskatchewan Polytechnic School of Health Sciences applied research project that will focus on the mental health supports for Indigenous adolescents residing in northern Saskatchewan.

The grant was awarded as part of SHRF’s new Solutions Program that aims to mobilize the research community and its partners to focus and coordinate their diverse skills and perspectives to address timely Saskatchewan health challenges.

“This program allows for flexibility and responsiveness and keeps Saskatchewan health needs at its core,” says SHRF CEO, Patrick Odnokon. “We work with our partner and stakeholders’ input and look at current trends to ensure the program remains focused on supporting our local expertise to find local solutions in areas that will have the most impact for the most people in the province.”

Researchers from the Sask Polytech Centre for Health Research, Improvement and Scholarship (CHRIS) will explore how virtual reality (VR) technology can be used to promote Indigenous adolescents’ mental health and wellbeing. The initial goal of the study is to outline the current status of mental health supports and identify service gaps through the perspectives of Indigenous community members.

“The assessment phase will be followed by exploring how VR technology can be used to either address one or more of the gaps or to enhance existing supports,” says Lindsey Boechler, research chair for Cultural Empowerment. “The research design employs community-based participatory action research methodology.”

“This research will work to enhance the mental health and wellbeing of Indigenous adolescents by partnering with community members to develop culturally responsive mental health supports,” says Sandra Blevins, dean for the School of Nursing and School of Health Sciences. “Thank you to SHRF for their support of this important project. And thank you to all of the study participants who are stepping forward to share their stories. These may be difficult personal stories to share and we recognize how challenging this may be.”

The study will comprise four iterative and overlapping data gathering phases:

  1. Gathering perspectives of community members including adolescents, family members and service providers;
  2. Conducting an environmental scan, including key informant interviews;
  3. Providing an introduction to VR technology and surveying community members; and
  4. Fostering community engagement and feedback.

This mental health project will build upon existing research of best practices for utilizing VR to address mental health and wellbeing. This study will serve as a catalyst that pushes the boundaries of a virtual presence in the domain of enhancing mental health and wellbeing.

CHRIS supports faculty in the Sask Polytech School of Health Sciences and School of Nursing in achieving their scholarly development goals and aspirations. Through CHRIS, faculty can access support for publication and presenting as well as grant and funding applications, and can request in-service sessions on a variety of scholarly topics. CHRIS also serves as a hub for research networking and allows faculty to connect with potential research partners within the Sask Polytech community and beyond. For more information visit