McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Three major mental health research grants involve McMaster researchers

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: July 29, 2008
Brian Coombes
From left to right: Alison Niccols, associate professor, Dr. Richard Swinson, professor emeritus, and Dr. Chuck Cunningham, professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences

The Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) has announced three major national mental health initiatives, all involving McMaster University researchers.

Alison Niccols, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, is a principal investigator who will use a new $1.5 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to improve services for women with substance use issues and their children.

Niccols said her research team "will be asking program managers, executive directors and front-line clinicians at agencies all across Canada what information and strategies they need to help them improve their services."

Women with substance use issues and their children are at risk for a host of health problems. Even though successful programs integrate parenting and child development services with addictions services, agencies across Canada are not consistent in using this approach.

A cross-Canada survey led by Niccols discovered many agencies provide little support for the children of women with addictions and frequently refer the children to outside agencies.

Niccols' research team will be asking agencies what kinds of strategies would be most helpful to them.  "For example, based on their input, we may provide a tool kit of strategies for them and then study if that is effective in helping them."

The five-year grant involves multiple projects and people across Canada with the expectation Niccols’ team will launch new research in this area.

McMaster researchers are also involved in two additional new CIHR- funded teams who will be investigating ways to improve the application of mental health research.

Dr. Richard Swinson, professor emeritus, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences, and medical director, Anxiety Treatment and Research Centre, St. Joseph’s Healthcare, and Dr. Chuck Cunningham, professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences, are part of a University of Manitoba-led mental health research team awarded $1.5 million in new CIHR funding.

The team, led by Dr. John Walker, a professor in the university’s Department of Clinical Health Psychology and head of the Anxiety Disorder Program at St. Boniface General Hospital, will look at how young adults with mental health problems make difficult decisions without the help of critical information and helpful decision-making aids.

Dr. Cunningham is also participating in a research project led by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children which will develop and evaluate an innovative implementation model to bring evidence-based practices into both the children’s mental health and education sectors. The project, led by psychologist Dr. Melanie Barwick, received $2.3 million in CIHR funding.

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