Federal budget good news for mental health research

In the midst of all the media coverage surrounding last week’s federal budget, it would have been easy to miss the new funding announced for mental health research and training.

I was encouraged by promised investment in the areas of mood disorders and the ongoing fight against stigma and mental illness.

Canada’s government laid out a plan to spend $5 million for the development of a national network of patient-focused depression research and intervention centres as well as $200,000 for anti-stigma mental health training for health care professionals.

More details will certainly be released in the coming weeks, but in a news release shortly after the budget announcement, the Mood Disorders Society of Canada said it will work with the Mental Health Commission of Canada and other partners to support this new network of research centres.

Essentially, the network will support more than 80 researchers and clinicians specializing in depression and working toward a comprehensive research plan focusing on suicide prevention and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It is hoped that by collaborating efforts across the country, researchers will be able to move forward more quickly in the goals of learning more about the biological and psychosocial determinants of suicide, PTSD and other mood related issues in order to improve detection and help for those at risk.

In addition to learning more about what triggers and underpins these conditions, the network would hope to improve the current diagnostic and treatment strategies for these conditions by ensuring patients have access to new diagnostic tools such as biomarkers and the most effective treatments. The network would also undertake clinical trials of novel pharmacological or cognitive treatments.

The initial $5 million investment by the federal government is intended to spur further public and private sector investment.

A further $200,000 will be used for continuing education for family physicians and other health care professionals in the area of mental illness and will help to continue to raise awareness and reduce stigma associated with these conditions.

As I have said in numerous columns over the years, depression is a huge challenge facing our society and economy. It is the leading cause of workplace disability in Canada and costs more than $50 billion a year in health care, criminal justice, lost income and productivity.

It is encouraging to see our government put some effort toward facing these challenges not only for the good of our economy, but for the very real benefit it will have on the lives of Canadians living with mental illness.

Time will tell if this proposed national network of research and intervention centres will prove to be effective at moving us forward.


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