Modes of Empowerment and Self-Care Strategies: Mental Health Disability on Canadian Campuses

Posted on Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

Dear Participant,

My name is Loa Gordon and I am a graduate student in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the University of Guelph. You are invited to take part in my interview to study the empowerment and self-care practices of university students with mental health struggles. Dr. Satsuki Kawano is the principal investigator of this project.

The purpose of this message is to provide you with the information you require to make an informed decision on participating in this research. The information I am collecting from interviewees will be used in my master’s thesis, in a conference presentation, and in journal publications.

This study aims to examine the self-care practices adopted by Canadian university students that lead to their empowerment. This study is being conducted during the summer of 2017 and I am looking for fifteen participants who are students at the University of Guelph and who live with a self-reported mental illness or mental health disability. Disclosure of diagnosis will not be required.

If you are interested in participating in this project, please email me. I am planning to complete my interviews by August 31, 2017.  Participation in this project is voluntary, and it will not affect the success of the research if you decide that you do not want to participate, or decide to withdraw part way through the study. Should you have any questions regarding the project, please contact me. 


Student Investigator: Loa Gordon, Master’s student, Department of Sociology and Anthropology University of Guelph,

Should you have any concerns regarding this project, please contact:

Principal Investigator/Supervisor: Dr. Satsuki Kawano, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Guelph, 519-824-4120X53912, Office: 603 Mackinnon Building

Detailed information regarding this project

What will I be asked to do?

We will meet at a place of your choosing, such as a coffee shop, a public campus space, or my private on-campus office, where we will discuss your experiences as a Canadian university student, your experiences as a student with a mental illness or mental health disability, and how you take care of yourself to achieve empowerment. If you are comfortable with it, I would like to audio record this conversation. Alternatively, I can take handwritten notes instead of an audio recording, the choice is up to you.

I will ask you 30 interview questions. As this is a semi-structured interview, I will interact with you during the interview by, for example, asking you to elaborate or come up with a specific example. Please understand that you are under no obligation to answer any question, or to take part in the interview.

Will I be paid?

This study involves no payments, incentives, or reimbursement for participants.

How long will it take?

The interview will only take 90 minutes of your time. If you choose to receive the aggregate results, I will email you a summary of my findings.

What are my rights and responsibilities as a participant?

Participation in this study is voluntary. Please note that it will not affect the success of the research if you decide that you do not want to participate, or decide to withdraw part way through the study. You may refuse to answer any questions or withdraw from the study at any time with no effects on your status at the University of Guelph. Similarly, if you decide not to participate or to withdraw from the study, your status or membership at any university wellness group or service will not be affected.

If you wish to withdraw from this study or have your data withdrawn, please let me know verbally during the interview or by email afterwards (until November 30th, 2017).

Risks and Discomforts

There are only minor risks to participating in this study, and none greater than encountered in everyday life.  Individuals living with mental health struggles may be at increased vulnerability due to pre-existing psychological health conditions. As a result, there is potential for minimal psychological risk during the interview portion of this study. Informants might ruminate on mild feelings or experiences related to their mental health, which can cause mild sadness or anxiety. To mediate this risk, no interview questions will directly address negative or stigmatizing experiences. Rather, questions related to empowerment, self-care, and university life will be focused on.


This study will contribute toward a more complete understanding of the current Canadian mental health crisis by collecting insight from the Canadian students who are themselves affected. The research results may be used as a tool by governing bodies on Canadian campuses to better manage the needs of students with specific mental health needs. The data will allow for the creation of innovative strategies to better accommodate students, to promote their wellbeing, and to make university campuses more inclusive spaces.

This study is contributing to an anthropology of disability, an increasingly noteworthy area of research that seeks to understand the needs, experiences, and identities of individuals with impairments. By implementing a critical disability studies perspective in its examination of subjective experiences of mental health struggles, this study provides a meaningful alternative to biomedical and medical anthropology perspectives on mental illness.

Funding Status

Unfunded master’s thesis

Conflicts of Interest

There are no reasonably foreseeable real, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest.

What will happen to the information collected for this study?

The results of the study will be used in a master's thesis, in a conference presentation, and potentially in journal publications.

Privacy and Confidentiality

What types of information will be collected?

Your name and email address will be collected and linked to your views of mental health and empowerment. Your gender will also be noted for demographic purposes only. Please note that only the research team will have access to this identifying information and that pseudonyms will be used in all data dissemination to ensure your privacy and confidentiality.

How will the information be stored?

The de-identified information you provide will be stored in my personal, encrypted computer, which will be kept in a locked room in my home when it is not being used. As well, a backup of the information will be stored on my personal, encrypted USB stick. The USB stick will be used only for this project, and will be kept in a lockbox in my home when it is not used. The audio-recording of your interview will be immediately downloaded to my USB stick from the digital recorder, and the voice file on the recorder will be deleted as soon as the downloading of the file is complete. Once the thesis has been defended, all the data will be destroyed, files will be permanently deleted, and the USB stick will be reformatted.

A master list linking participant identity to interview data will be secured on an encrypted USB stick that only the research team (myself and Dr. Satsuki Kawano) has access to. The USB stick will be kept in a lockbox in my home when not in use. The master list will be destroyed following the defense of my master’s thesis, in the spring of 2018, at which point the USB stick will be reformatted and all files will be permanently deleted.

How will the information be used?

In my thesis, publications, and conference presentation, your name will not be used and no information that discloses your identity will be released or published.

Who can access the information?

The information you provide will be available only to the researchers (i.e., the principal investigator and the student investigator), to the extent allowed by law.

If you have questions regarding your rights and welfare as a research participant in this study, please contact:

Director, Research Ethics; University of Guelph;; (519) 824-4120 (ext. 56606). This project has been reviewed by the Research Ethics Board for compliance with federal guidelines for research involving human participants.

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