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Nipissing University partners on youth mental health research project

A research study conducted in North Bay is going to examine youth mental health, addictions and trauma and services available in northern Ontario.

Hands The Family Help Network is partnering with Nipissing University on the project.

Trish Mintz, director of child and youth mental health services at Hands, is preparing to look into child and youth concurrent disorders.

"Concurrent disorders are when you have a mental health illness co-according with some kind of substance misuse,” she explained.

“We know that prevalence rates of concurrent disorders are higher than the general population."

The not-for-profit organization and the university received a $100,000 grant from the Mental Health Research Canada and the Knowledge Institute On Child And Youth Mental Health and Addictions organization.

The study will focus on the neuro-psychology related to addictions, look to break stigmas in youth struggling with mental health and addictions and find concrete interventions and harm reduction.

"Then we’re taking that knowledge and putting it into the community. Are lessons learned? How we've built that capacity within our clinicians to better serve youth within our community," said Mintz.

“We want to help frontline staff to build skills, collaborate effectively and provide a common language and understanding of the latest research on the neuroscience of youth addiction.”

Dr. Andrew Weeks, the university’s psychology department chair, will study how trauma and addiction affects brain architecture, development and function.

Weeks said the research will benefit frontline mental health workers who help youth with these concurrent disorders.

"We need to think about that group of people differently when we think about addictions,” he said.

“The other part of it is to evaluate whether those programs that the Hands group is going to be implementing are making a difference."

Research shows that compared to other provinces, adolescents living in Ontario report higher rates of illicit drug use.

“We hope this vital knowledge will strengthen their ability to help these youth and families in need,” Weeks said.

“We have a fantastic lab and team here at Nipissing University and are excited to play an important role in such valuable work in this mental health field.”

Mintz said parents and caregivers in rural communities in northern Ontario face barriers in accessing appropriate services, a lack of clear referral pathways and a disconnect between assessments and interventions.

Additional training is required for professionals to address the complexity of issues for youth presenting with mental health and addiction issues.

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In the District of Nipissing, there is only one youth addiction worker while the District Municipality of Muskoka has four.

"Concurrent disorders should be treated in an integrated way,” said Mintz.

“We would look towards having sustainability built into the project so future clinicians coming into the community would receive that training on concurrent disorders."

The research will take about a year to complete. Top Stories

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