News - Aug 2019

HRI launches videos shedding light on mental health and addiction research

HRI recently launched Vimeo and YouTube channels and released a series of videos highlighting the importance of mental health and addiction research in Canada.

Six videos offer a glimpse into how we are working to transform treatment to help people living with mental illness and addiction. Some of the highlights include:

  • An overview of the Recovery Journey Project, a study examining the long-term outcomes of inpatient addiction treatment in Canada
  • Research underway that is changing our understanding of PTSD
  • The life-changing benefits of participating in research at HRI
  • How collaboration significantly reduces the time it takes for research discoveries to be put into practice
  • The benefits of using living research environments to test novel treatments among the people who need them the most

Click to visit HRI’s Vimeo and YouTube channels and follow/subscribe for future updates.


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How patients are helping to shape future research at HRI

In the field of mental health research, patients are the most important stakeholders. They bring the perspective of experts with lived experience who can make important contributions that enhance the relevance and legitimacy of research.

To ensure that HRI’s work is responsive to the needs of Canadians, we aim to engage patients in identifying and informing meaningful research priorities and plans. In this way, patients are partners, playing an active role in shaping the mental health and addiction research agenda.

When HRI launched the Recovery Journey Project, a study examining the long-term outcomes of mental health and addiction treatment, we worked with patients to determine which aspects of recovery were most important to them. Now in its fifth year, the Recovery Journey Project is generating findings that can be used to improve treatment in Canada and help patients get better, sooner.

At a recent event in Guelph, Ontario, HRI invited patients in recovery from addiction to tell us what kinds of questions they think need to be answered about recovery.

The event, called Spiritual Renewal, is an annual celebration hosted by HRI’s primary research partner, Homewood Health. Patients from Homewood Health Centre’s residential addiction program gather each year to celebrate recovery milestones and support one another.

HRI has attended the Spiritual Renewal event for several years. Many attendees are alumni who have participated in the Recovery Journey Project. Others are current patients of the Health Centre, and the remaining attendees are family members. This year, we asked attendees, including family members, to help us determine future directions for the project. In particular, we wanted to know:

  • Which areas they feel should be the focus of future research, and
  • What kinds of questions they have about recovery.

What did patients tell us?

Mental health ranked as the number one priority research area among those who participated. Some of the most pressing questions included:

  • What are the impacts of concurrent disorders on recovery?
  • How does childhood trauma affect recovery?
  • Why do some people develop an addiction while others don’t?

Other major areas of interest and accompanying questions included:

  • Aftercare: does it work?
  • Social influences on recovery: how important is it to have a strong support system that includes people with lived experience?
  • Personal influences on recovery: does quality of life change over time?

Click to view priority research areas and related questions as identified by patients

What happens next?

With these insights, we can begin to explore the emerging research themes that matter to patients the most. Findings can then be used to inform meaningful improvements to care and ultimately to generate better treatment results.

The expertise that patients bring to the table will enable us to shape future research activities to better help the patients and families who stand to benefit from our work the most.

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Scholarship awarded to honour legacy of Guelph mental health advocate Darlene Walton

L-R: Dr. Roy Cameron, Alyna Walji, Gary Walton

Darlene Walton was passionate about mental health. A well-known Guelph resident, she dedicated her career to helping people impacted by mental illness and addiction. She was also a strong supporter of mental health research and contributed in many ways to Homewood Research Institute (HRI), a mental health charity which she saw as having potential to transform Canada’s mental health and addiction services.

When Darlene passed away in 2018, HRI established a scholarship to honour her legacy. The Darlene Walton Scholarship Fund was designated to support a student pursuing studies in the field of mental health and addiction research. On June 18, 2019, the award was presented to its first recipient, Alyna Walji.

Walji is a Health Studies co-op student from the University of Waterloo. During her 2018 work term at HRI, she developed a prototype tool that displays research data in a simplified and interactive way. Known as the Data Visualization Tool, the prototype was created to help health data users such as hospital administrators, program directors and others use data and improve programs by identifying critical success factors, areas for improvement, and research priorities.

Walji worked in collaboration with Dr. Jim Wallace, professor in the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, to develop the tool and move it from a paper-based blueprint to a fully-functioning electronic dashboard application.

The Data Visualization Tool is currently being piloted at Homewood Health, HRI’s founder and primary research partner. Using the prototype tool, clinicians can quickly explore data from patients who have been in recovery for up to one year following addiction treatment, and use findings to inform changes to treatment programs and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
“The Data Visualization Tool is a resource that can transform the way our research data is shared and used,” says Dr. Jean Costello, a Research and Evaluation Scientist at HRI who supervised Walji’s work term.

“Oftentimes, data is shared via static media, such as infographics and reports. This tool allows people to interact with the data in a user-friendly way. It makes otherwise-complicated data more accessible, meaningful and understandable for those tasked with making data-driven decisions and improvements to mental health care services.”

Members of Darlene Walton’s family were in attendance during the award presentation.

“Darlene believed that science was the key to finding solutions,” says Darlene’s husband, Gary Walton.

“She viewed HRI’s practical research as vital to the future of our nation’s mental health, and our family is grateful that her passion will live on through the generous donations made to this scholarship fund. We are very pleased that Alyna is the first recipient of Darlene’s award. Darlene would be so happy to know that her legacy is supporting the next generation of researchers and scientists who will make a difference.”

“We can’t think of a student more deserving of the Darlene Walton Scholarship Fund than Alyna Walji,” says Dr. Costello.

“Darlene is an inspiration to us all, and we are pleased to honour her by awarding this scholarship to a student who shares Darlene’s vision of a brighter future.”

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