CIHR awards researchers $1.5 million for healthcare research

How do young people get information about mental health problems and treatment options when they or their friends are in crisis? Anxiety and depression, among the most common mental health problems in Canada, frequently develop during adolescence and early adulthood. Yet young adults who suffer from these problems face complex decisions about mental health care and often lack the information they need to pursue the right treatment.

Researchers at York University, the University of Manitoba, McMaster University and Brock University received $1.5 million on Friday, July 18 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canadian Mental Health Commission to research how young adults who suffer from mental health problems, and those who support them, make decisions about their mental health. The project also promises to develop methods to help the mental health care sector better-address the needs of Canadian youth by transferring knowledge to them in optimal, timely formats.

Through a partnership with the Centre of Excellence in Youth Engagement, researchers will work with young adults and community groups to determine – what information young adults want about mental health; where they are most likely to find it; how they would like to receive it; whom they might contact for information; when it’s best to receive information; and what kind of barriers prevent them from getting the information they need in an optimal format.

After creating and evaluating the impact of materials better-suited to the needs of young adults in real-world settings, the researchers will work with partner organizations to transfer their findings and launch public information campaigns that will help Canadian youth to make more informed decisions about their mental health.

“The right treatment, based on sound evidence, can have a critical impact on a young adult’s health – especially when begun early,” said John Walker, professor of clinical health psychology at the University of Manitoba and the project’s lead investigator. “How we get the right information to the right people in the right format at the right time to help them make informed decisions about their mental health clearly has enormous implications.”

The funding is part of a total $4.4 million earmarked by CIHR to support a total of three projects that will improve the application of mental health research. Steven Fletcher, MP for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia and parliamentary secretary for health, made the announcement on behalf of Tony Clement, minister of health. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is also contributing $250,000 to the project.

“Thousands of Canadians and their families deal with the negative effects of mental health problems,” said Fletcher. “The government is committed to funding research that will help ensure that these Canadians have access to the best mental healthcare services possible.”

At York University, the project is one of the first initiatives of the Psychology Research & Training Clinic (PRTC), which provides research and training in psychological interventions for health and mental health.The clinic will work to generate ongoing empirical research that promises to allow for collaborations among hospitals, community agencies and school boards while attracting outstanding applicants to York’s Psychology Graduate Program and producing highly-qualified health care professionals.

“The PRTC’s outreach component will ensure that evidence-based interventions are provided in a user-friendly way, which is a particularly important aspect when dealing with the adolescent population,” said Michael Siu, associate vice-president research, science & technology at York. “This grant is a testament to the increasing strength of York’s exceptional health, life sciences, and social innovation research, which contribute to Canada’s knowledge base and enhance our quality of life.”  

The research team includes John Walker, Patricia Furer and Jitender Sareen of the University of Manitoba; Henny Westra, Lynne Angus, John Eastwood, Madalyn Marcus and David Phipps of York University; Charles Cunningham and Richard Price Swinson of McMaster University; Kimberley Ryan-Nicholls of Brandon University; and Linda Rose-Krasor of Brock University.

The CIHR is the government of Canada’s agency for health research. It’s mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support over 10,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada.

For more information, contact Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, at ext. 21069 or or Nora Gubins, director of Communications & External Relations, Faculty of Health, at ext  21072 or