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The time to act is now. We must accelerate youth mental health research in Canada

CBRF News, Mental Health, News October 06, 2021

RBC Foundation donates $2-million to help launch first-ever Brain Canada Youth Mental Health Platform Program

The Brain Canada Youth Mental Health Platform, powered by RBC Future Launch will support a pioneering national project that will make meaningful advances in the field of youth mental health possible by enhancing existing technical and research capabilities of Canadian neuroscientists.

“This is a call to action to the youth mental health research community for the development of a national youth mental health platform with the ultimate goal of sharing data across disciplines, including people with lived experience,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, CEO and President of Brain Canada. “This will create synergies across these groups while accelerating the practical application of research findings in improving youth mental health services.”

The toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people’s collective mental health and wellness has been massive. Mental illness disproportionately affects young people between the ages of 15 and 29 worldwide. It accounts for approximately half of the overall burden of disease in this age group, making it the leading cause of disability in Canada.

“We are at a very critical juncture,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, Brain Canada President and CEO. “We must turn the collective ideas and conversations we have been having around addressing the gaps in youth mental health care into tangible evidence-based actions.”

“The global pandemic has completely upended the lives of young people across our country,” says Mark Beckles, Vice-President, Social Impact and Innovation, RBC. “RBC Future Launch is committed to partnering with Brain Canada to invest in an infrastructure to build and share youth mental health knowledge across teams and disciplines, to address the barriers to care. We want to be part of a solution that will find new ways to reach young people and ensure they can access the mental health supports they need.”

High-impact research relies on creating access to shared equipment, facilities, services, databases, computing and informatics facilities, patient repositories, and biobanks through the development of platforms that enable open access to such technologies across a variety of research networks.

The availability and accessibility of platforms represent an important avenue for capacity building and a cost-effective means of accessing cutting-edge equipment, technology, and services beyond what any researcher could achieve on their own. Despite the known advantages of using platforms in research and their proven ability to foster interdisciplinary collaborations and innovation, a national platform in the youth mental health research sector has yet to be developed.

“This project will have a discernable impact on Canada’s capabilities in youth mental health research,” says Dr. Catherine E. Ferland, Brain Canada’s Chief Research Program Officer. “It will result in greater access to specialized technology, and better coordination of the existing infrastructure for researchers and people with lived experience. It will help the youth mental health community at large.”

This national project was made possible by an anchor gift of $2-million from the RBC Foundation, in support of RBC Future Launch.