Two Canadian teams awarded new funding to study mental illness in youth with rheumatic diseases

Brain Canada and Cassie + Friends unveil the recipients of the Addressing Mental Health in Paediatric Rheumatic Diseases Team Grants program

Brain Canada and Cassie + Friends are pleased to announce the recipients of the Addressing Mental Health in Paediatric Rheumatic Diseases Team Grants program. This year’s awardees are Roberta Berard, from the London Health Science Centre and Mark Ferro, of the University of Waterloo. Both teams are advancing efforts to better prevent, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses in children and young adults with rheumatic diseases such as juvenile idiopathic arthritis and lupus. These conditions affect approximately 24,000 children and youth across Canada, impacting their daily lives and overall well-being.

« Together with Cassie + Friends, we are proud to fund these important research initiatives. Our partnership reaffirms our dedication to supporting groundbreaking research that has the capacity to profoundly improve the lives of Canadian youth navigating mental health challenges. »

Dr. Viviane Poupon, President, and CEO of Brain Canada.

« We’re thrilled to announce the recipients of our new mental health grants, which mark a significant step forward in our mission to transform the lives of children and families living with juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic diseases,” says Jennifer Wilson, Executive Director of Cassie + Friends. “These grants will empower us to further our commitment to providing comprehensive care and resources, ensuring that no child or family feels alone in their journey. »

Despite the high prevalence of co-occurring mental illnesses in pediatric rheumatic diseases, estimated at up to 40 percent, there remains a lack of understanding surrounding their development, early identification, and appropriate treatment options.

« As someone living with a rheumatic disease diagnosed in childhood, there was no guidebook on how to navigate the uncertainty surrounding my illness and the toll it would take on my mental health. Arthritis is so much more than the physical pain or symptoms. There was a direct correlation between my physical symptoms increasing and my mental health deteriorating.” 

Alison Legge, a 28-year old youth leader in the Cassie + Friends Network

With a total funding envelope of $480,000, Cassie + Friends and Brain Canada will support two team grants of $240,000 each over two years. 

About the projects:

The project aims to understand the comorbidity of mental health and disease in a sample of children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and their primary caregiver(s). Dr. Berard and her team will provide children with JIA and their caregiver(s) an innovative intervention called Making Mindfulness Matter (M3©). M3© teaches parents new ways to handle stress and helps kids manage emotions and build positive relationships. Participation in the program may improve health-related quality of life and mental health symptoms (for example anxiety, depression and stress) in the child and their caregiver. The study will compare those in the program to a waitlist group. Results could lead to better mental health support for families dealing with JIA.

This study aims to understand the mental health of children with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) by tracking changes over time, exploring caregivers’ and children’s perspectives, and testing the accuracy of the Emotional Behavioural Scales (EBS) in measuring mental health in childhood JIA. These findings could improve early identification and treatment of mental health conditions in children with JIA.