Eugenia Canas: Engaging youth in healthcare

By Natalie Valleau

Eugenia's hometown: London, Ontario

Eugenia Canas is in her final year of her PhD. She says that an advantage to studying at FIMS is the multiple opportunities they have for interdisciplinary work.


Eugenia Canas is doing her PhD in Health Information Science at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (FIMS). Her research focuses on mental health systems and the engagement of young people as stakeholders in healthcare. She’s been studying at FIMS since 2013 but has worked in the mental health sector since 2010. Her research helps youth contribute ideas on how mental health services and policies should be delivered.

“What I’ve found through my research is that youth really want attention paid to the social determinants of their health,” she said. “When they talk about stressors on their well-being, they’re not asking ‘what pharmaceutical can I take?’ Instead, they ask: ‘what are my options for the future in regard to employment, food security, family, and community connection?’ Those are the things that matter to their mental health.”

"I know that I get up every day and feel proud of putting my efforts into this area."
Eugenia has an undergraduate degree in fine arts and literature, and a master’s in linguistics. Before she started her PhD at FIMS, she also received a diploma in art therapy, where she worked with young people in psychiatric care. “Art-making helps people express their experiences. The object you are making supports you to work out what you’re feeling. It can be painting, drawing, or clay --- these are huge facilitators for both expression and the therapeutic relationship,” she said.

Fun Fact

After her PhD, Canas plans on dedicating one year to painting so that she can get back into it.

It was through that experience that she decided to orient her research toward mental health. She now uses ethnographic methods in her research. She says that she’s seen a huge urgency in supporting the mental health of young people, because intervening early has tremendous impact in other areas of their lives.

“I don’t think anyone in Canada or the world is exempt from having family members who have gone through mental health challenges. I’ve worked in other areas that applied my art background more, and it was definitely more glamorous, but not as meaningful to me,” she said. “The place I want to be is where I can affect people’s lives.”


Profiles in the Meet Our Students section are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.