Mental Health Innovation Prize
In Partnership with Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC)
Using Innovative Solutions To Combat Canada’s Youth Suicide Crisis: Two Research Prizes Valued at $50,000 Each Awarded
How do we support our youth to be more resilient and help prevent youth suicide? That was the impetus for the partnership between Mental Health Research Canada (MHRC
) and the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health (IAM)
and their creation of the first-ever, Canada-wide Mental Health Innovation Prize.
Launched in fall 2019, the Innovation Prize attracted unique solutions to address a long-standing mental health crisis: that suicide still remains the second leading cause of death
for young people in Canada. The Canadian Centre for Suicide Prevention cites a positive school environment as one of the protective factors against suicide, along with peer support and self-esteem – all key elements of the work being done by our winners: Dr. Mark Sinyor and Dr. Christopher Bowie.
In their work, researchers Sinyor and Bowie address suicide prevention by building resiliency in youth who may be at risk, and focusing on youth vulnerable to experiencing psychosis, which further increases suicide risk.
About Our Winning Projects
Using the narrative of HARRY POTTER to teach coping skills and resiliency in elementary schools
Dr. Mark Sinyor
A free three-month curriculum based on the third Harry Potter book – embedded with author J.K. Rowling’s own experience using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to overcome depression – teaches coping skills and prevention to students in elementary school. Sinyor and his team have been developing this curriculum based on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
over four years in partnership with educators, students and Google. Tested with an Ontario school board, the curriculum is being taught in Canada’s largest and most diverse school board: the Toronto District School Board.
With the help of Google Canada and partners, an online version of the curriculum is now being developed, with the goal of eventually rolling it across Canada and globally. Sinyor’s proposed research will expand this curriculum into an online format and the grant will examine its effectiveness by assessing students pre-curriculum and two periods post-curriculum (immediately after finishing and three months out). Sinyor’s research goal is to reduce suicidality, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and improve the well-being of students by teaching them self-awareness and coping behaviours in their formative years.
Giving remote communities a BOOST:
Online group interventions support youth living with psychosis in remote communities, integrating CBT and peer support
Dr. Christopher Bowie
Be Outspoken and Overcome Stigmatizing Thoughts (BOOST), developed by Bowie and his team, is a group intervention that integrates cognitive behavioural therapy with peer support to improve internalized stigma, self-esteem and the quality of life for young people with psychosis. Co-created and co-facilitated by people with lived experience, the therapy consists of eight sessions delivered online over four weeks to individuals with psychosis living in rural or underserviced communities and will involve three provinces.
Bowie’s proposed research will expand this intervention: adding therapeutic methods that address suicidality, incorporating materials that family and friends of the person with psychosis can use, and doing follow-up assessments over the long term. His research goal is to examine how this group treatment for self-stigma affects suicidal thoughts and behaviours.
About Our Winners
Dr. Mark Sinyor is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He is a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and an Associate Scientist at the Sunnybrook Research Institute. His clinical focus is on the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, and he is the founder of PROGRESS (the Program of Research and Education to Stop Suicide) at Sunnybrook. His main research focus is suicide prevention and mental health literacy, and he has developed a curriculum for middle schoolers teaching distress tolerance using the Harry Potter novels. His research has been featured in Time, BusinessWeek, CBC’s the National and Radio One.
Dr. Christopher Bowie is Professor in the departments of Psychology and Psychiatry at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is also Head Consulting Psychologist for Heads Up! which is an early psychosis intervention program in Kingston, as well as a Clinician-Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. His research focuses on cognition and functioning outcomes in schizophrenia and mood disorders, with an emphasis on early intervention and development of novel treatments. He has been the recipient of several awards including the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation’s Early Researcher Award and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation’s Independent Investigator Award.
About the MHRC x IAM Innovation Prize
This unique partnership between IAM, a community-based innovation platform, and MHRC, a leading national mental health research organization, highlights the urgency to develop solutions around the growing and urgent issue of youth suicide, especially among youth living with psychosis. This donor-invested prize of $50,000 each challenged leading teams in the innovation, research and health care communities to develop interventions and prototypes.
About the Selection Process
Our rigorous selection process included the creation of an Advisory Group representing leaders from across disciplines including innovation, human-centred design, academia and health care, along with youth who with lived experience. Judges from the Advisory Group deliberated and heard presentations from four finalists before a decision was made to award both Sinyor and Bowie.
Click here to download more info on the Mental Health Innovation Prize (PDF).