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Adolescent Mental Health

Principal Investigator:
  • Jean Addington, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary
Team Members:
  • Glenda MacQueen, Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary
  • Signe Bray, University of Calgary
  • Jonathan Downar, Toronto Western Research Institute, University of Toronto
  • Sidney H. Kennedy, University Health Network
  • Benjamin Goldstein, Sunnybrook Research Institute
  • JianLi Wang, University of Calgary
  • Catherine Lebel, University of Calgary
  • Hotchkiss Brain Institute

Project Overview

Most mental disorders begin in adolescence; however, there are many gaps in our understanding of youth mental health. Clinical and policy gaps arise from our current inability to predict, from amongst all youth who experience mild behavioural disturbances, who will go on to develop an illness, what that illness will be, and what can be done to change its course and prevent its worsening to a serious mental illness (SMI). Many other gaps exist in our understanding of how risk factors set off neurobiological changes that determine who will develop a SMI. Dr. Addington and her team’s overarching goals are (i) to be able to identify youth at risk before they develop a SMI so that intervention can begin as soon as possible and (ii) to understand the triggers of SMI. They will follow a large group of youth who are at different stages of risk for developing SMI for one year. We will assess a wide range of clinical and psychosocial factors in order to determine ones that can be used to predict key outcomes, such as increasing disability, secondary substance misuse, not participating in education or employment, new self-harm and worsening physical health, as well as SMI development. They will then perform brain scans and assess blood to see if we can identify any biological factors that may contribute to SMI development in youth. Stress and early cannabis use, both major concerns for today’s youth, may play major roles in poor outcomes and later mental illness. However, there are many other factors involved and we will be exploring other risk factors of SMI. Finally, using all of the team’s results, they will develop prediction models that will help determine how these risk factors interact in predicting negative outcomes for youth.