Our Research

We will bring decades of experience funding exceptional research in mental health with us as we seek engagement with stakeholders to determine our future course.

Identifying Research Priorities:

Mental Health Research Canada will listen, analyze and respond to the current mental health needs of Canadians. And our stakeholders – all levels of government, mental health care agencies and providers, charities, corporations and individuals with lived experience – inform and guide us.

In 2018, we will lead roundtable meetings in Ottawa for stakeholders. After the consultation process we will establish and communicate the research priorities of our organization reached through this process.

Why our work matters:

Beyond the toll on quality of life for Canadians, mental illness costs as much as $50 billion to the Canadian economy annually. Despite over 20% of Canadians being affected, mental health-related spending, public and private, amounts to approximately 7% per year.

Mental Health Research Canada draws on a history of fund cutting-edge research. We will continue to support researchers who aim to better understand mental health and improve access and quality of mental health services for Canadians.

Completed Research:

Explore the range of impactful research we fund: from biomedical research on mental illness to developing national mental health indicators to analyzing treatment effectiveness. Our researchers pursue improved mental health outcomes through cutting-edge and visionary work.

Research in Progress

 

Fellowships, 2016-2019

 

Dr. Philip Gerretsen – New Investigator Fellowship
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
“The clinical and functional imaging effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on illness awareness in schizophrenia”

This study seeks to explore the clinical and functional imaging effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on illness awareness in schizophrenia, arguably the most treatment-resistant manifestation of the disorder. Schizophrenia is ranked 5th among leading causes of disability in industrialized countries and is estimated to cost Canada over $7 billion per year. Impaired awareness of illness, occurring in up to 95% of patients with schizophrenia, is associated with medication non-adherence, poorer functioning and higher risks of relapse, re-hospitalization and violence.

Dr. Wataru Inoue – New Investigator Fellowship
Western University
“The role of microglia in synapse refinement during the neuroendocrine adaptation to stress”

Chronic stress is a major risk factor for serious mental illnesses including major depression, posttraumatic stress disorders and memory impairment. Indeed, stress-related disorders have emerged as “epidemic,” estimated to cost $31 billion a year in lost productivity, and billions more in direct medical costs in Canada. How does chronic stress impair our mental health? A common theme in stress-related disorders is that persistent activation of the stress response rewires our brain (known as neuroplasticity) and causes maladaptive forms of neuroplasticity that underlie various disease symptoms.

Dr. Nathan Kolla – New Investigator Fellowship
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
“A Multiple Biomarker Approach to Investigating Psychosocial Treatment Response in Justice-involved Youth with Conduct Disorder”

Some youth who are in conflict with the law have a history of violence. Many also display conduct disorder, which is a serious behavioural and psychiatric illness associated with disruptive and aggressive behaviour. Fortunately, talk-based therapies have been shown to reduce violence and aggression in these youth. The Stop Now And Plan (SNAP) model is one of the best-studied treatment for aggression and violence in youth. SNAP teaches youth to make better choices in the moment and works to reduce impulsive behaviour, a strong risk factor for violence in this population. The SNAP Youth Justice model has been developed for youth in conflict with the law. We propose using a state-of-the-art brain-imaging technique, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to learn how this SNAP Youth Justice model impacts brain function in treated youth. We also propose studying how it affects morning cortisol levels, a stress hormone. We will recruit justice-involved youth with conduct disorder and a history of violent behaviour from the Youth Justice Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

Dr. Marina Milyavskaya – New Investigator Fellowship
Carleton University
“Self-critical perfectionism in the transition to university: Identifying links to depression and anxiety and designing a targeted intervention”

The transition to university is a stressful time for new students; many develop mental health problems that can interfere with their schoolwork, social life and general functioning. The study’s first goal is to determine whether self-critical perfectionism represents a risk factor for experiencing increased depression and/or anxiety in the first year of university. Incoming undergraduate students will complete questionnaires reporting on their levels of perfectionism, depression, anxiety and stress at three points: before the start of the semester (July-August); halfway through the semester (in mid-October); and at the end of the semester (mid-December). This data will be used to identify a cut-off score for self-critical perfectionism above which a person is at higher risk of developing depression or anxiety; and to determine the level at which self-critical perfectionism becomes a real clinical concern. The study’s second goal is to design and test an intervention for people with high levels of self-critical perfectionism. Two different components of an intervention will be tested. First, cultivating self-compassion, which is an attitude of kindness and sensitivity towards one’s distress and shortcomings. This may be especially effective in reducing shame and guilt, which are the hallmarks of self-critical thinking. A second intervention will teach students how to cope with stress.

Studentships, 2016-2019

 

Lauren Drvaric
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
“The Power of Resilience: Positive Psychotherapy for Youth at Clinical High-Risk (CHR) for Psychosis”

Our lab has studied the effects of stress experienced by clinical high-risk (CHR) youth for developing psychosis. Research has shown that CHR youth are in need of novel treatments to help them cope with stress and the symptoms they experience. This study will look at a newly developed therapy known as Positive Psychotherapy (PPT), which helps young people identify their individual character strengths to build resilience. The study will evaluate the effects of group PPT in CHR youth to reduce stress and psychosis-risk syndrome symptoms compared to standard treatment. It is hoped that PPT will provide CHR youth with useful tools to help them navigate through their future, and to be better equipped to deal with the challenges of daily life.

Nick Kerman
University of Ottawa
“The Effects of Housing Stability on Service Use among Formerly Homeless Adults with Mental Illness and Substance Abuse”

Mental illness and substance abuse are pervasive problems among the chronically homeless population. This study will explore how the use of health, social and justice services differ during transitions from homelessness to housing compared to those from housing to homelessness. It will also examine the differences in service use between participants who achieve housing stability and those who experience housing difficulties and recurrent homelessness. The study is recruiting 68 participants who have been diagnosed with a mental illness and a comorbid substance-use problem, and who are homeless at study entry. Half of the sample will receive housing first (affordable housing in the form of independent apartments with intensive case management); the other half will receive standard care. Participants will be followed over a 24-¬month period, with three assessments occurring during this time.

Danijela Maras
University of Ottawa
“How do avoidant attachment and depression impact quit smoking rates among HIV+ people”

This study will compare nicotine use and depressed mood among HIV+ people as a function of their avoidant attachment relational style. This study will also examine how changes in depressed mood and attachment avoidance are related to quit smoking and nicotine use. This study is part of a larger randomized trial examining the use of two different medications (varenicline and nicotine patch), each with and without additional quit smoking counselling tailored for HIV+ smokers. This study is recruiting participants across eight Canadian sites, and is supported by the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network. Participants complete self-report questionnaires assessing their avoidant attachment level, depressed mood, and nicotine use at baseline, then every four weeks for 24 weeks. Nicotine use is also confirmed using a machine that measures carbon monoxide levels.

Carley Pope
Lakehead University
“A Preventative Approach for Postpartum Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Mindfulness-Based Intervention”

Postpartum depression is a serious mental health disorder that affects up to 20% of women who have recently given birth. Furthermore, up to 84% of new mothers experience the “baby blues,” which is a briefer period of emotional disturbance. Postpartum depressive symptoms have been found to negatively affect the daily functioning of mothers and can adversely affect the development of infants. Consequently, there is a pressing need for an effective preventive strategy to reduce the risk of postpartum depression.

Laura Schulze
Toronto Western Hospital
“A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing Two Different Patterns of Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in the Treatment of Refractory Depression”

Major depression is a common, disabling illness. For a large portion of patients with depression, medications and therapy are not effective. New treatments are urgently needed. The proposed study will investigate the use of an emerging, non-invasive form of brain stimulation known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), to treat major depression. rTMS involves stimulating certain areas of the brain with powerful, focused magnetic field pulses. Over time, the magnetic field pulses can gradually change the activity level of the stimulated brain region. This can be helpful in treating certain kinds of psychiatric illnesses, such as major depression.

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