Cartoon image from the video -- people standing behinds signs "Mental Illness Stigma"Renée Taylor hopes to contribute to understanding of the obstacles preventing people in the black community from seeking help for psychological concerns.

Storyteller seeking to lift burden of mental illness stigma

Black Canadians are especially impacted by mental illness stigma, making it less likely they will seek help for psychological concerns, says Renée Taylor. A doctoral student of psychology, she produced a video explaining her research into the subject, which won her a spot as one of 25 finalists in this year’s SSHRC Storytellers contest.

“I was ecstatic when I found out that I was one of the 25 finalists!” says Taylor. “I had never won a competition that rested so heavily on my creative ability before, so it was extremely exciting for me.”

She had heard last year about the competition, in which Canadian post-secondary students share their discoveries in a three-minute presentation illustrating the impact of social sciences and humanities research, but at the time, her project was not yet funded by the agency.

“One of my own research projects was recently funded by SSHRC, so I decided to base my entry on that project,” Taylor says.

Her work explores the factors affecting the willingness of Black Canadians to use mental health services: “I am particularly interested in the cultural, social, and psychological factors such as stigma, cultural norms and expectations, perceptions of mental health service providers, etc.”

Watch her entry, entitled “How afrocultural beliefs mediate the relationship between stigma and attitudes toward psychological help-seeking.”

Also qualifying in the national top 25 are Taylor’s fellow psychology student Kathleen Wilson and kinesiology grad Sara Santarossa.

Five winners were originally to be announced at the 2020 Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, which has been cancelled this year due to social distancing protocols. All finalists will be recognized next May at the 2021 Congress held at the University of Alberta.