Rob Whitley
PhD

  • Division: 
    Mental Health and Society
Rob Whitley
 

Office: 
E-3108, Perry Pavilion

6875 Boulevard LaSalle
Montréal, QC
H4H 1R3


(514) 761-6131 x4339





Lab images - click to enlarge: 
Whitley lab

Researcher, Douglas Research Centre
Principal InvestigatorSocial Psychiatry Research and Interest Group (SPRING), Douglas Research Centre
Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University 
Research Scholar, Fonds de recherche du Québec - Santé (FRQS), Senior



Social psychiatry research


The Social Psychiatry Research and Interest Group is devoted to research, action and knowledge translation that can improve the lives of people with mental health issues. In pursuance of this task, much of our work revolves around two related concepts, recovery and stigma. The overall mission of the Social Psychiatry Research and Interest Group is to conduct research and take action that ultimately promotes recovery and diminishes stigma. Our work aims to help all people who suffer from mental health issues, but in recent years much of our work has focused on groups who under-utilize mental health services, including (i) immigrants; (ii) military veterans; and (iii) men.

Recovery

We have conducted numerous externally funded studies examining recovery from mental illness, with a focus on barriers and facilitators. Our research suggests that recovery is much more than traditional clinical notions of symptom remission, with recovery better framed as a process rather than an outcome. Our research suggests that factors such as employment, education, rewarding social relations, religion/spirituality and contributing to society are key facilitators of recovery. Contrariwise, barriers to recovery include unemployment, financial strain and stigma.

Stigma

Much of our research indicates that stigma is the single most important barrier to recovery for people with mental health issues. It directly reduces their quality of life and psychological well-being. Stigma is often based on misperceptions, myths and inaccurate stereotypes. Our research suggests that stigma can be reduced through various methods, including educating the public and key stakeholders, as well as empowering people with mental illness. We continue to work with journalists and the media in various projects to improve coverage of suicide and mental illness.

Ongoing Projects

We are currently conducting five separate projects funded by a variety of organizations including CIHR, SSHRC, Veterans’ Affairs Canada, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. 

  1. a comparative study examining mental health among religious immigrants including Jews, Christians and Muslims; 
  2. a qualitative study investigating the psychosocial experience of people who have received ‘not parent expected’ news from a direct-to-consumer ancestry DNA test; 
  3. a five-year longitudinal study assessing suicide coverage in the Canadian media;
  4. a participatory video project investigating the relationship between cannabis-use and mental health, with a focus on military Veterans; and 
  5. an action-research study examining the portrayal of military Veterans in the Canadian media, with a focus on PTSD and suicide. 

 


  1. Whitley R, Sitter K C, Adamson G & Carmichael V (2021) A meaningful focus: Investigating the impact of involvement in a participatory video program on the recovery of participants with severe mental illness. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal 44(1): 63-69.
  2. Whitley R & Zhou J (2020) Clueless: An ethnographic study of young men who participate in the seduction community with a focus on their psychosocial well-being and mental health. PLOS ONE 15(2): e0229719.
  3. Whitley R, Sitter K C, Adamson G & Carmichael V (2020) Can Participatory Video reduce mental illness stigma? Results from a Canadian action-research study of feasibility and impact. BMC Psychiatry 20(16).
  4. Whitley R, Fink D S, Santaella-Tenorio J, & Keyes K (2019) Suicide mortality in Canada after the death of Robin Williams, in the context of high-fidelity to suicide reporting guidelines in the Canadian media. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 64(11): 805-812.
  5. Whitley R, Shepherd G & Slade M (2019) Recovery colleges as a mental health innovation. World Psychiatry 18(2): 141-142.
  6. Boucher M-E, Groleau D & Whitley R (2019) Recovery from severe mental illness in Québec: The role of culture and place. Health & Place 56: 63-69.
  7. Carmichael V, Adamson G, Sitter K, & Whitley R (2019) Media coverage of mental illness: A comparison of citizen journalism vs professional journalism portrayals. Journal of Mental Health 28(5): 520-526.
  8. Whitley R (2018) Men’s Mental Health: Beyond Victim Blaming. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 63(9): 577-580.
  9. Affleck W, Thamotharampillai U, Jeyakumar J, & Whitley R (2018) ‘If one does not fulfil his duties, he must not be a man’: Masculinity, mental health and resilience amongst Sri Lankan Tamil refugee men in Canada. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 42(4): 840-861.
  10. Carmichael V & Whitley R (2018) Suicide portrayal in the Canadian media: Examining newspaper coverage of the popular Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’. BMC Public Health 18(1086): 1-10.
  11. Affleck W, Carmichael V & Whitley R (2018) Men’s mental health: Social determinants and implications for services. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 63(9): 581-589.
  12. Whitley R, Wang J W, Fleury M-J, Liu A, & Caron J (2017) Mental health status, health care utilization and service satisfaction among immigrants in Montreal: an epidemiological study. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 62(8): 570-579.
  13. Whitley R & Wang J W (2017) Good News? A longitudinal analysis of newspaper portrayals of mental illness in Canada 2005-2015. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 62(4): 278-285.
  14. Whitley R & Wang J W (2017) Television Coverage of Mental Illness in Canada: 2013-2015. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 52(2): 241-244.
  15. Creed M & Whitley R (2017) Assessing fidelity to suicide reporting guidelines in Canadian news media: the death of Robin Williams. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 62(5): 313-317.
  16. Whitley R (2016) Ethno-Racial Variation in Recovery from Severe Mental Illness: A Qualitative Comparison. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry 61(6): 340-347.
  17. Boucher M-E, Groleau D & Whitley R (2016) Recovery and Severe Mental Illness: the Role of Romantic Relationships, Intimacy and Sexuality. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 39(2):180-2.

Rob Whitley is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, and a Research Scientist at the Douglas Research Centre. He is currently a Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé Senior Research Scholar, and an Honorary Principal Fellow at the University of Melbourne. He has also held honorary appointments at King’s College London, Dartmouth Medical School (New Hampshire) and Howard University (Washington DC). He has published over 135 academic papers in the field of social and cultural psychiatry; and has written over 100 mental health related articles for lay audiences in diverse venues including Psychology Today, the HuffPost, the Montreal Gazette, the Vancouver Sunand the National Post. Whitley is also a video-producer and script-writer, and has produced several documentaries and short fictional films related to mental health that have been featured in film festivals across North America. 

Whitley has a particular interest in (i) gender issues, conducting considerable research on men’s mental health and women’s mental health; (ii) mental health in Spanish-speaking countries, with collaborations in Chile, Mexico and Spain; and (iii) positive engagement with the media to raise awareness about mental health issues.


FRQ-S Chercheur-Boursier Senior (2019-2023)
FRQ-S Chercheur-Boursier Junior 2 (2016-2019)
CIHR New Investigator Award (2011-2016)
FRSQ Chercheur-Boursier Junior 1 (2011-2015)
Leverhulme Trust Post-Doctoral Fellowship (2003-2005)
U.K. Medical Research Council Ph.D. Scholarship (1999-2002)


PhD Students

  • Ria Dwi Agustina
  • Marie-Eve Boucer

Research Staff

  • Lara Antebi
  • Sonora Grimsted
  • Anne-Marie Saucier
  • Derreck Roemer
  • Richard Diraddo

Recent publications