York University receives funding to advance mental health supports for racialized women during pandemic

A woman looking at a laptop that says "Mental Health"

Researchers at York University in collaboration with their community and college partners will undertake a project to rapidly review the literature on mental health supports for racialized women at risk of gender-based violence during the pandemic.

Nazilla Khanlou

Professor Nazilla Khanlou and colleagues received funding through the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) Knowledge Synthesis Grant: COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity in Mental Health and Substance Abuse – 2020 for the project “COVID-19 pandemic guidelines for mental health support of racialized women at risk of gender-based violence.”

Violence against women contributes to high levels of morbidity and mortality, and is associated with psychological distress and mental health concerns, says Khanlou, who adds there has been a dramatic increase in violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The overall aim of our project is to rapidly advance trauma-informed mental health care for racialized women at risk of gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic’s response and recovery phases,” she said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has differentially impacted populations. Racialized populations are at higher risk of COVID-19 related morbidity and mortality. We need to rapidly examine what we know in the literature to inform specific guidelines that address mental health support.”

The multidisciplinary team consists of principal knowledge user Andrew Ssawe of South Riverdale Community Health Centre; York University co-investigators Yvonne Bohr, Jennifer Connolly, Iris Epstein, Thumeka Mgwigwi, and co-investigator Soheila Pashang of Humber College; and York University collaborators Farah Ahmad, Negar Alamdar, as well as Sajedeh Zahraei of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

The research is a response to increasing calls for more information about racialized people’s experiences, to generate knowledge on the mental health impacts that the pandemic is having on marginalized groups, and on how they can be mitigated.

Provincial, national and international organizations highlight the need to address the differential impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has on marginalized populations, and now is the time to transform the approach to mental health and well-being across sectors, says Khanlou.

Informed by their recent work on trauma-informed approaches to addressing gender-based violence and previous research on racialized women, the research team will apply an intersectionality-informed lens and a systems approach to understand how multiple intersections related to race, gender, socioeconomic status, migration status and age, impact on racialized populations and on the resiliency of their systems of supports.

Khanlou is asking service providers and researchers who know of any mental health reports, guidelines, or any type of mental health literature, addressing gender-based violence against women and girls during the COVID-19 pandemic to send an email with details for inclusion in their review of available information.

“We are particularly interested in literature addressing diverse and racialized populations on this topic,” she said.

Emails can be sent to Luz Maria Vazquez at owhchair@yorku.ca by June 19.