Understanding the long-term impacts of COVID-19
Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on mental health is not only crucial but also an evolving field. As the global pandemic hit, Gustavo was prepared to start his research investigating how changes in our environment, such as variation in temperature and sunlight can impact mental health. However, he changed the focus of his research when he realized that there was an immediate interest in understanding how the pandemic – and public health measures in response to it – can affect our mental health state.
Over the last year, Gustavo connected with a group of researchers to initiate a longitudinal study to look at the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of Canadians. So far, the study has found that while mental health declined for the general population during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, younger Canadians were most affected. Following this, the study is looking at the mental health impacts of the third wave and is digging deeper into specific groups in Canada. As we continue to experience the impact of the global pandemic, there’s much more this research will continue to reveal.
Experience of others inspires change of direction
Volunteering in a food bank in the city of Guelph made a big impact on Gustavo. Seeing people facing mental health challenges and food insecurity occupied his thoughts even after he left the food bank’s doors at the end of a shift. He realized that these experiences were more important to him than the questions he was investigating at work, and he decided to make some changes. He enrolled in the PhD Public Health and Health Systems – his second doctoral degree – to connect his past academic research with this experience. With a background as a field and experimental biologist and researching the impact of climate change on plants and non-human animals, he decided to use his knowledge to understand how changes in the physical environment impact mental health. Although his research focus has shifted due to the pandemic, he still feels its roots are similar.
"...I’ve already had the opportunity to be involved in a number of different projects and learning experiences, which I am sure will be essential for my career development.”
The challenges of studying during the pandemic
Studying during the pandemic has also presented challenges for Gustavo, as for all students. With advanced degrees from a different area, he was looking forward to deep discussions with his peers about their research. The reality of the pandemic has meant that staying connected with fellow students has been challenging. He misses the hallway chats and expansion of casual conversations he would have experienced on campus. Nevertheless, he has been able to make the most of building relationships remotely and is happy to work with the group of students working with Professor John Hirdes: “it is a wonderful group of people. I’ve already had the opportunity to be involved in a number of different projects and learning experiences, which I am sure will be essential for my career development.”