Oliver Donaldson

Oliver Donaldson has a passion for improving mental health outcomes in LGBTQIA+ and takatāpui communities, which led him to a Master of Science in Psychology.

Portrait of Oliver Donaldson

“My passion for working in mental health has stemmed from my own experiences and knowing that poor mental health disproportionately impacts minority communities. There is such a need for professionals that have understanding and empathy for these diverse experiences.

Oliver’s research explores the relationship between television and film representations and the mental health and identity experiences of transgender people in Aotearoa.

“Diverse and representative media portrayals are extremely important for informing and maintaining societal attitudes. Past research shows that such representations are significant for providing Rainbow people with comfort, pride, and self-acceptance, particularly during identity processes like sexuality realisation and coming out.”

However, existing research into transgender experiences is limited. Oliver is seeking to investigate the many ways media representations have impacted transgender people throughout their experiences, such as gender realisation and transitioning, and how this may affect their mental health.

To assist his research Oliver has consulted with InsideOUT, a Rainbow organisation where he is an active volunteer. He intends to consult with a variety of other Rainbow and transgender groups.

“I hope this research will help emphasise the importance of mainstream media’s influence and why it is so vital to have representative and relatable characters and storylines in media.”

Oliver describes the teaching staff at Te Herenga Waka as supportive and passionate about sharing knowledge, including his supervisor, Professor Marc Wilson.

“Marc is not only passionate about the area he is in, he also directs this passion into his students’ projects. He has a genuine interest in them and values having a diverse range of projects in his lab.”

Oliver is yet to decide which path he will take after completing his Master’s, but he is open to the possibility of pursuing his research further and extending its scope.

“I know that ultimately I want to be involved in bettering mental health in the Rainbow community, whether this is through academia or primary care.”