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Queen's University is planning mental health research in Sudbury

Sudbury is one of many Ontario cities that experiences significant barriers to mental health care

Queen's University in Kingston, Ont. is doing a series of mental-health related research studies and is recruiting people in Sudbury to step up and get studied.

The work is being done by the Queen's Online Psychotherapy Lab, which is researching a host of issues that includes depression, insomnia, alcohol use disorder, correctional workers (PTSD, depression and/or anxiety) and cancer and palliative care patients (depression and/or anxiety). 

One of the reasons, said research recruiter Dr. Gilmar Gutierrez, is that people with mental health concerns in rural communities are showing up at hospital emergency departments seeking help for a variety of problems, because they cannot get help anywhere else. He said the situation contributes to extra pressure on the health care system.

"This is a complex situation which has contributed to higher Emergency Departments (EDs) utilization, health care costs, length of hospital stays and the likelihood of readmission and worse clinical outcomes," said Gutierrez. He said this happens in many remote and rural communities where mental health care services are lacking. 

"Specifically, Sudbury experiences significant mental health-care barriers as many other Northern Ontario communities, " said Gutierrez. 

"The delivery of mental health services in rural and northern communities in Ontario is marked by significant disparities when compared to urban areas.”

Gutierrez said this is marked by fragmented community mental health services. He said it is also identified by elevated rates of mental health issues and higher incidents of people reporting "fair or poor" mental health status and increased rates of depression.

Gutierrez said this is compounded by the challenges related to inadequate transportation systems that make it harder for patients to get out and about.

The lab is hoping that individuals in Greater Sudbury will come forward and take part in the research. 

In return, the lab will offer several sessions on online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

"Our services are offered as part of clinical trials which aim to validate the effectiveness of online psychotherapy programs for a variety of psychiatric conditions including depression, insomnia, PTSD, anxiety and alcohol use disorder," Gutierrez explained. 

He said the programs are delivered through an online psychotherapy tool, which was described as a secure, cloud-based, digital mental health platform.

"The online psychotherapy programs ​​consist of around 10-13 weekly online sessions which deliver CBT content and helpful coping skills. Each session has an assignment which is reviewed by a therapist, who then produces personalized feedback to guide the participants through the therapy program. All these programs are offered free of charge," Gutierrez said.

He said the online program is recognized as valid and useful.

"We are an Ontario-wide mental health care service. Though there are other online psychotherapy services available in Ontario, as mentioned, the Ontario Brain Institute (OBI) evaluation report, recognized OPTT (therapy platform and online psychotherapy content) as the most clinically validated solution in the market," Gutierrez said.

"This sets our service apart from others, additionally OPTT is currently one of Canada's only clinically validated online mental health products with AI capabilities. Our lab is also a pioneer in online mental health care and has received several CIHR (Canadian Institute of Health Research) funding awards to support clinical trials for the development and validation of our online psychotherapy programs."

Individuals who are willing to participate in the studies are invited to contact Queen’s University through the recruiting webpage.

Len Gillis writes about health care and also covers mining stories for .


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Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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