New BU study will explore youth learning and mental health during pandemic


BRANDON – In difficult times, as everyone’s lives are affected by COVID-19, your voice can help highlight the sweeping impact of this pandemic.

Researchers at Brandon University are starting a new Manitoba-wide project to understand how students, their parents or guardians, and educators are faring during this unprecedented learning climate.

“We would like to hear from you about youth learning concerns and about mental health,” said Dr. Breanna Lawrence, who is leading the project. “By doing this research during the pandemic, we will gain valuable insight into how families are responding to stressors like suspensions of face-to-face classes and how families are accessing educational resources. We want to know more about how youth are participating in activities that promote well-being.”

Dr. Lawrence teaches child and adolescent development to preservice teachers and also teaches in the graduate guidance and counselling program in the Faculty of Education at Brandon University. She also has a four-year-old and a seven-year-old child at home.

“I know first-hand some of the challenges that families are facing,” she said. “Now is the time for us to put our heads together, to learn from one another, and to share the strategies that we are using to manage these unprecedented challenges. That’s what this study is all about.”

She says the main goal of the project is to understand how youth with learning and mental health concerns are impacted, and how families and educators are working together to support student well-being.

“As a teacher educator, my focus is on helping the next generation of teachers learn about working effectively with families,” she said. “This is a strengths-based study to find out what’s working— and to pass on this information to future educators.”

The research team is looking for youth aged 12 to 18 years old and their parents or guardians from across the province to discuss their experiences with learning and mental health amidst the COVID-19 health pandemic. Separate interviews will be conducted by telephone or video conference and will be audio-recorded. For each interview, participants will be thanked with a $20 gift card.

Findings from this research will inform educational practices and provincial policies to better support the learning and mental health needs of youth.


This study is part of a larger study funded through Research Manitoba, with research collaborators at University of Saskatchewan and University of Manitoba that also will include analyzing Statistics Canada survey data. The overarching project goal is to advance understandings of positive youth development.

Children’s emotional and behavioral health and their learning and achievement are strongly linked. A pressing concern is the increasing rates of mental health concerns among children and youth. There is not a lot of current research that captures multiple perspectives on youth mental health in educational contexts. Ultimately, the findings from this research will be invaluable in understanding the numerous influences and strategies used as families and educators’ collaborate to support the well-being of students during the COVID-19 health pandemic.

Anyone interested can contact Dr. Breanna Lawrence, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education. Brandon University at, or call or text her at 204-819-4322. The research project also has a Facebook page at Prairie Youth Resilience Research Team, at


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 (Brandon University News)