Student spotlight: Michelle Solomon

Michelle Solomon has completed a portion of her training at Parkwood Institute, part of St. Joseph’s Health Care London, with Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, Lawson Scientist. She is working towards a PhD in Nursing Leadership in Health Promotion and Advanced Nursing Practice at Western University.

My research

For people between the ages of 15 to 24, suicide is the leading cause of death. Previous research shows that spiritual coping helps to reduce depression and suicide rates.

Spiritual coping is the use of beliefs, attitudes or practices to help reduce the emotional distress caused by stressful events of life, helping to give the suffering meaning and make it more bearable.

People who have bipolar disorder are more at risk of suicide compared to other psychiatric diagnoses. My research focuses on spirituality among youth who have bipolar disorder to learn how they define and experience spirituality during their illness.

Traditional pharmacotherapy-based treatments have limited effectiveness on quality of life for chronic and complex illnesses such as bipolar disorder; therefore, a more holistic approach to treatment is important. I want to look at a psychosocial intervention like spirituality to help people manage their symptoms. Spirituality is a universal concept and something that many can relate to. Focusing on spirituality, rather than religion, is more inclusive allowing us to study the impacts for people with diverse cultures, religions, beliefs and backgrounds.

Partnering with patients

For mental illness, the initial care often happens in hospital. We see this as an important time when health care providers, social workers and researchers – with the patient – contribute and work together. The person experiencing a mental health challenge can be under a lot of stress, and we want them to feel comfortable knowing that they are receiving the best care with evidence to support it.

My research will involve interviewing youth who live with bipolar disorder and asking them questions about their spiritual health. I hope that by interviewing youth, they will teach us more about how we can better facilitate spiritual health.

The next step

I would like to continue developing my program of research. From there, I want to network and build a team of people who share my research interests. I would love to collaborate with people internationally to meet the mental health needs of youth around the world.

Empowering young scientists

To those interested in working in health research, my advice is to take good care of yourself, have hobbies outside of health research and maintain a balanced lifestyle.

As a scientist, always stand for what you believe in and work well as a team because research is very collaborative.