Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation
March 20, 2023
Integration of research and mental health care allows for discoveries to benefit families sooner
The statistics are heartbreaking. Research reports one in five children in Canada struggles with anxiety and depression. The good news: children and families in Calgary and southern Alberta have a first-of-its-kind option to turn to, as a new, youth-designed $39-million mental health centre opens its doors. The Summit: Marian & Jim Sinneave Centre for Youth Resilience is Calgary’s first dedicated centre for child and adolescent mental health. It is designed to not only provide the very best care for young people, but also to offer them opportunities to participate in groundbreaking research that will benefit children and youth the world over.
Dr. Susan Graham, PhD, director of the Owerko Centre in the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) at the University of Calgary, is co-leading the research program at The Summit. She says its opening could not come at a better time.
“We know there’s an unprecedented number of children and adolescents struggling right now,” she says. “Our hope is that The Summit opening sends a message to young people and families that the community cares about their well-being and is investing in the very best care and treatments rooted in research evidence.”
The Summit is one of the most research-intensive community-based mental health facilities for young people in Canada. The Mental Health Research 4 Kids (MHR4K) research program, a partnership between Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary, is fueled by community support through the Alberta Children's Hospital Foundation. Led by researchers from across UCalgary, MHR4K supports the integration of research and care.
Dr. Paul Arnold, MD, director of the Mathison Centre in the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, and co-lead of research at The Summit, highlights three lighthouse projects — studies with potential to be scaled up — already underway at The Summit.
ACHRI researcher Dr. Carly McMorris, PhD, an assistant professor at the Werklund School of Education, found encouraging results to address anxiety in children and adolescents with autism through Facing Your Fears, an adapted cognitive behavioural therapy program. Her ongoing study demonstrates a reduction in stress and an increase in quality of life for children and their families.
“Through The Summit, the team is expanding the scope of this work to see whether children with ADHD and FASD can also benefit,” says Graham, who is also scientific director of the Azrieli Accelerator at UCalgary. “What’s most encouraging is their desire to train community clinicians to be able to help children they see in their own practices.”
The second project is led by Dr. Chad Bousman, PhD, an associate professor in the Cumming School of Medicine. He is broadening his pharmacogenetics research to focus on children and youth with depression and anxiety. His work enables highly personalized drug therapies by identifying how each child’s/teen’s genes respond to different types and doses of medications.
“His findings in depression have the potential to improve mental health outcomes across the board, especially considering how children/adolescents often have to try several medications before finding one that alleviates symptoms without harsh side effects,” explains Arnold, a paediatric psychiatrist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
The third project focuses on an emerging form of treatment for children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Paediatric neurologist Dr. Kara Murias, MD, PhD, and colleagues are introducing a clinical trial to understand the effects of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on the part of the brain that governs attention.
“rTMS is already a well-known treatment for depression in adults. Dr. Murias’s team is aiming to offer families new options to help children with ADHD thrive,” says Arnold. “This work will also help the broader community of neurologists develop a deeper understanding of how attention is manifested and controlled on a biological level.”
The integration of research and mental health care at The Summit allows kids and families to participate in research, and for discoveries to benefit families sooner.
Child Health and Wellness
The University of Calgary is driving science and innovation to transform the health and well-being of children and families. Led by the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, top scientists across the campus are partnering with Alberta Health Services, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, and our community to create a better future for children through research.
The University of Calgary is committed to enhancing the mental health of students, faculty and staff and provides a variety of mental health resources. Learn more about our Campus Mental Health Strategy and Suicide Awareness and Prevention Framework.
The Azrieli Accelerator will transform neurodevelopment research across the lifespan through collaborative and transdisciplinary teams committed to improving the lives of all those affected by neurodevelopmental disabilities. This new initiative — made possible by the Azrieli Foundation — will enhance collaborations across the university, in the community and throughout the global network. It builds upon the university’s more than 50-year history of advancing related research, which has been supported by transformative investments by government, community partners and generous philanthropists, including the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation; the Owerko, Cumming, Hotchkiss, Snyder, Mathison and Fenwick families; and many others.