About Saint Mary's

Child and Youth Mental Health Goes Under the Microscope

5 July, 2013

Michael ZhangThe services available for young people suffering with mental health disorders like autism, anorexia and depression in Atlantic Canada will be going under the microscope as part of a new $2.5 million research project funded by the federal government.

Dr. Michael Zhang, Acting Chairperson of Finance, Information Systems & Management Science at Saint Mary’s University will be part of a four-person team looking at the impact of the disorders on individuals, the community and the existing services in place.

“It is an exciting opportunity to look at the most effective services that are available nationally and see how we can apply them to service gaps that might exist in Atlantic Canada,” said Dr. Zhang, who will use his expertise to manage databases and the modeling of treatment plans.

“We want to explore the conditions in each province through multiple lenses with the hope of recommending reorganization, co-ordination and integration of resources to improve outcomes across health, education and interactions with public agencies.”

Studying how each condition is managed in all four Atlantic Provinces will allow for inter-jurisdictional comparison.

The research, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, will take place over five years. The other researchers on the team include project leader Dr. Rick Audas of Memorial, Dr. Kate Tilleczek of UPEI, and Dr. Scott Ronis of University of New Brunswick. A wide range of government is expected to be involved along the way.

The mental health disorders the team will focus on will be Autism Spectrum Disorder, Eating Disorders, Conduct Disorder, Anxiety, and Depression. These conditions, like other mental health disorders affecting children, involve a myriad of service providers.

The funding was announced recently by Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, as part of a national 12-project research initiative focused on improving community-based health care.

"Community-based health care is the heart of our health care system," said Minister Aglukkaq. "For most Canadians, primary health care is the most frequent point of contact with the health care system, and we are committed to strengthening this front line of care. I am particularly pleased that the teams we are supporting will also focus on ways to improve access for those most vulnerable among us."