Tracking attitudes towards mental illness

UWinnipeg prof receives $56,000 grant as part of international study

Dr. Melanie Gregg

Dr. Melanie Gregg

People with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder often face social isolation because others are fearful and uninformed about these conditions. An international study hopes to lessen the stigma and give young people more information about mental health disorders using a virtual reality program.

The University of Winnipeg’s Dr. Melanie Gregg, Chair and Associate Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Applied Health, has been selected as a researcher with a $56,000 grant. Funding for the study is provided by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry and Competitiveness.

Stigma.Stop- VR: A virtual reality program against the stigma in mental health is developing a virtual reality program to be up and running by summer 2018. It puts participants in a virtual world that shows how stigma affects people with serious mental health problems. The goal is to allow participants to feel the barriers and stigma a person suffers, to build empathy and reduce the stigma of mental disorders.

Dr. Gregg will track young people’s attitudes towards the mental disorders before and after they have used the VR program to see if there is a shift.

“Though the awareness of the prevalence of mental illness has increased in recent years there is still a gap in understanding mental health,” says Dr. Gregg.  “When we are uncomfortable a common reaction is avoidance – this often compounds the challenges for individuals with mental illness who then experience social isolation and as a result lack support from their social network. If we can decrease this gap it can go a long way to boosting this much needed social support.”

Data for this study is being collected in Spain, Chile, the USA and Canada.

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