Melanie Gregg is currently the chair of the kinesiology and applied health department at the University of Winnipeg (U of W). She says her main focus of teaching and research is in sports psychology.
However, for a research project, she’s teamed up with a professor from Spain to develop a virtual reality (VR) video game to help combat stigma against mental illness.
The VR game is being developed in Spain, and, so far, it has different scenarios to interact with someone with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and agoraphobia.
“You interact with the avatars to understand what their issues are, and then also the idea is eventually we’ll develop it so they can understand how to interact with people with mental illness, and then also what supports you can offer people with mental illness,” Gregg says. “So really, the goal is to try to reduce stigma.”
She adds the reason they chose to use a VR game is so the people interacting with the game can build empathy by being in similar situations they may face in real life.
Gregg joined the research for the video game in the fall of 2016, and she helped collect data from students at the U of W about stigmas around schizophrenia.
She says the data showed the students had relatively lower stigma around schizophrenia compared to university students in Spain and Russia.
Although the data collected was from university students, Gregg says the program is aimed at 12- to 18-year-olds.
“Targeting younger people makes sense, because we want to prevent these stigmas from developing or to change their minds earlier on,” she says.
The VR video game will be coming to Winnipeg hopefully this year, she says, but she isn’t sure how it’ll be implemented to students.
What was your worst grade in university? This is embarrassing. It was a D. It was human physiology, and I hated that course so bad. I just was terrible at it.
What’s your favourite thing about yourself? I think that I’m quite adaptable. So if things change and don’t go the way I had it in my mind or I didn’t plan it that way, then it’s okay, and I’m like ‘meh, let’s do something different (from the thing) that wasn’t working.’
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? It wouldn’t be one that flies, cause I’m scared of heights. Maybe (something like) The Flash, cause I like to do things really fast.
What do you like to do in your spare time? Most of my spare time, I have four-year-old twins, so mostly I just play with them, and we hang out. Right now, my son’s really into dinosaurs, so I’ve learned a lot – I didn’t know I almost knew nothing about dinosaurs. My daughter is really into ballet, so we dance a lot in my living room. And I also play on three volleyball teams, on rec leagues.