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Canadore College presents results of recent research project through photovoice

Sep 19, 2023 | Cindy Males, Public Relations and Communications Specialist

The global pandemic influenced every aspect of people’s lives, including how parents raise their children. A new research project at Canadore College aimed to capture the experience of giving birth to and parenting infant children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The project used photovoice methodology as a way for parents to express their experiences with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs).

“For many parents the pandemic presented additional barriers when trying to access resources for themselves and for their children,” said Shannon Coyle, a Social Service Worker student and research assistant with the project. “The parents in the group used photovoice to tell their stories in their own way. We often focused on their resilience and how each parent found ways to adapt and survive the challenging times they faced,” she added. Coyle was the recipient of the Mental Health Research Canada and MITACS studentship, funding which supported the project and this role.

The group also provided direct peer support for the parents and gave them a safe space to discuss the barriers and challenges they faced during the pandemic while also connecting with and supporting each other. The project will help community service and healthcare workers to identify gaps which need to be addressed. Policy makers will have a better understanding of the importance of postpartum care for everyone in the family unit thanks to the powerful stories and photographs.

“We gathered photographs and stories from different parents to showcase their challenges and resilience during this unprecedented time,” said Dakota Hamilton, another student researcher with the Research Centre. “Parents displayed remarkable strength when adapting to remote work, online schooling, and social distancing. However, just like everyone else, they faced struggles due to the lack of support, resources, and social connections necessary for their mental health and well-being.”

“We had the opportunity to share these photos and captions at a local conference hosted by the Lived Experience and Recovery Network (LERN) of Northeastern Ontario and the response was incredible,” said Megan Porter, co-investigator and registered social worker on the project. “Audience members were moved to tears as they witnessed these stories in pictures and captions.”

Two students from Canadore’s Digital Cinematography program filmed a documentary featuring one of the participants. Filmmakers Tyson McKay and William Mitchell documented the powerful impact of the pandemic on the experience of birth and raising a young infant. This documentary will be given to the PMAD Committee for Nipissing and Parry Sound as another tool for their use. It is just one way the overall project is supporting the community partners involved and uncovering the challenges faced by new parents and the power of applied research in helping develop supports for the community.