Lakehead University researchers studying COVID-19 mental health impacts thanks to Bell Let’s Talk funding

Photo of Dr. Ian Newhouse and Dr. Erin Pearson 

Dr. Ian Newhouse and Dr. Erin Pearson will lead the research project.

May 19, 2021 – Thunder Bay, Ont.

Lakehead University is receiving $25,000 from Bell Let’s Talk, allowing researchers to study how COVID-19 has impacted physical activity behaviour and mental health in university students.

Two researchers from Lakehead University’s School of Kinesiology, Dr. Ian Newhouse, Director/Professor, and Dr. Erin Pearson, Associate Professor, will lead the research project, which is being funded through the Bell Let’s Talk Post-Secondary Fund.

Bell Let’s Talk recently awarded more than $3 million in funding to 123 post-secondary institutions across Canada to support activities aligned with the voluntary National Standard of Canada for Mental and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students.

The research aims to identify health promoting strategies that can be used to develop future programming at Lakehead University.

“While a strong link has been established between mental health and physical activity, the question of how to best promote physical activity during a pandemic – particularly in the context of post-secondary students – needs further exploration,” Dr. Newhouse said.

“It is possible that some strategies honed during the pandemic could also carry forward to non-pandemic times,” he added.

Restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have had a negative impact on the frequency and modes of physical activity that students engage in.

The project that Drs. Newhouse, Pearson and their team are working on is called Moving through COVID-19: Understanding physical activity behaviours and mental health experiences of university students. 

The researchers will work on this project over the next year, building on a pilot study that investigated physical activity levels in a university-aged, healthy cohort from January 2020 to March 2021. 

Specifically, the current project will identify the facilitators and barriers to physical activity and its impact as a mental health support.

The research team will be partnering with Lakehead University’s Student Health and Wellness as part of continued efforts to enhance services and programs to better meet the needs of students during the ever-changing climate caused by the pandemic.

This research will help align Lakehead University with the National Standard for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students.

“The research results will help identify potential risk factors for student mental health, adding to the evidence that informs our health promotion strategies,” said Cheryl D’Angelo, Director of Student Health and Wellness at Lakehead University. 

The project will utilize quantitative and qualitative methods, targeting a diverse range of students to determine the best strategies for enhancing physical activity and mental health. 

Lakehead University faculty and staff are excited to collaborate with Bell Let’s Talk in continued efforts to advocate for the well-being of post-secondary students.

“Now more than ever, it is important that we talk about our mental health, especially for young people who are more susceptible to bullying and other pressures due to social media,” said Dr. Moira McPherson, Lakehead’s President and Vice-Chancellor.  

In April, Bell Let’s Talk announced $3.075 million in grants for 123 Canadian colleges and universities to support them in implementing the National Standard for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students.

“Bell is committed to supporting student mental health and we were pleased to see so many post-secondary institutions apply for funding – such a great response in fact that we increased total funding for the initiative by almost 25 per cent to more than $3 million,” said Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let’s Talk.

“These grants will help colleges and universities across the country accelerate the important work they’re doing to support student mental health and well-being. We look forward to building on their progress with more funding later this spring for schools implementing new initiatives aligned with the Standard,” Deacon said.

If you are in need of help, or simply want to speak with someone, visit Bell Let’s Talk for more information or Lakehead students can download TalkCampus app on to their devices, which is a peer support platform they can use for health and wellness.


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Lakehead University is a fully comprehensive university with approximately 9,700 full-time equivalent students and over 2,000 faculty and staff at two campuses in Orillia and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Lakehead has 10 faculties, including Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Graduate Studies, Health & Behavioural Sciences, Law, Natural Resources Management, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Science & Environmental Studies, and Social Sciences & Humanities. Lakehead University’s achievements have been recognized nationally and internationally, including being ranked, once again, among Canada’s Top 10 primarily undergraduate universities in Maclean’s 2021 University Rankings; as well as included in the top half of Times Higher Education's 2020 World Universities Rankings for the second consecutive year, and 99th among 1,115 universities from around the world in THE's 2021 Impact Rankings (which assesses institutions against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals). Visit