Professor Sepali Guruge

Ryerson University Nursing Professor Sepali Guruge is the head researcher of the mental illness stigma project that received a $3-million grant from the Movember Foundation. (Courtesy Ryerson University).

Three Ryerson professors played an integral role in earning one of the largest grants in school history.

Sepali Guruge, Josephine Wong and Souraya Sidani from the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing recieved a $3 million grant from the Movember Foundation. It was awarded for their investigative project focusing on reducing mental health stigma in Asian male communities in Canada.

The Movember application process took Guruge, Wong, Sidani and the rest of the researchers involved nearly two months to perfect. Their hard work paid off.

Pete Bombaci, national director of Movember Canada, says Ryerson’s research project received one of the highest grades from the international peer-review team set up by the foundation.

“It is a great thing when [the Movember Foundation] finds great programs that are making a difference,” he said. “The rigor behind the Ryerson program is really good and we are thrilled to be funding them.”

Guruge, the principal investigator of the study, says the application’s success was a result of each professor’s area of expertise. Guruge specializes in mental health, Wong in public health and community mobilization, and Sidani  in intervention study methods.

“Many of us were working day and night in July to put together this proposal,” Wong said. “I think we all did an excellent job of providing a comprehensible and holistic proposal.”

Guruge says the study is going to be groundbreaking for the mental health care industry.

“There is nothing else in Canada that looks at immigrant communities and mental health the way our project does.”

The project is scheduled to finish in 2016 and will consist of 2,160 men partaking in surveys and intervention counseling groups. The participants will be sampled from Canadian cities with a high immigrant population. Men from Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver selected to participate in the study .

The research team hopes the scale of the project will influence Canadian policy makers to put funding towards mental health initiatives. They also think it will help Asian men struggling with mental illness feel integrated within society.

Wong stressed the importance of creating a study focused on mental health stigma within Asian males in Canada. This demographic faces multiple societal, personal and cultural challenges that can harm their mental well-being.

“Many of the [Canadian] Asian community members are newcomers to our country,” she said. “They’re in Canada for 10 to 15 years and yet they still feel they aren’t integrated into the community and society.” This prevents them from seeking services. There is a large Asian population in many major cities that can’t find any psychiatrists from the same culture.”

The final goal of the project is to get Asian men to become ambassadors and engage in society.

“It would make me so happy to start observing mental illness stigma decrease, people breaking the silence and talking about these issues,” Wong says. “When individuals in a community experience good health, society will too experience good health.”

Hayley Brauer graduated from the journalism program at Ryerson University in 2014.