Millions pledged for pandemic-related brain and mental health research

© Can Stock Photo / zimmytws

As Canadians hold a conversation about mental health Thursday, the federal government has provided a boost for brain research.

This week, the Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program was launched to help support Canadian brain research while supporting efforts to study COVID-19’s effects on mental health. The program has begun with a $4-million commitment, half of which is covered by the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative, the rest by a match from the Canadian Brain Research Fund (CBRF).

Brain Canada President and CEO Dr. Viviane Poupon said the funding comes at a critical time, when more Canadians are facing mental health challenges because of the pandemic and its impact on personal economics.

“The time to act is now,” said Poupon. “This research program comes at an important juncture. The next wave of the pandemic will be the mental health crisis. We must ensure our health care system is equipped to meet the rising demand for mental health resources, services and treatment options. To make advances in this space, we need to utilize new and emerging knowledge and find ways to implement it to achieve meaningful outcomes for Canadians.”

According to a series of national surveys by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, the level of anxiety felt by Canadians during the pandemic was a roller-coaster, with the highest level in the early spring and late fall, and the lowest level during the summer.

The most recent survey, during which 1,003 Canadians were interviewed between November 27 and December 1, 2020, showed that parents, women, and young adults were most affected by symptoms of anxiety and depression. The CAMH also reported that 24.3 per cent of respondents had moderate to severe anxiety during the pandemic, and 23.3 per cent of all respondents reported feeling lonely.

The CAMH also reported binge drinking as a growing issue during the pandemic, with 25.7 per cent of respondents admitting they had consumed excessive alcohol within the past week.