Pathstone and Brock working to provide improved understanding of childhood mental health issues

A new partnership between two Niagara organizations will mean a direct connection between the people conducting leading-edge research on child mental health and the caregivers who work with families dealing with related issues.

Pathstone Mental Health and Brock University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday, March 22 that solidifies a collaboration that will positively impact children suffering with mental health in Niagara and beyond.

Brock Child and Youth Studies master’s student Carolynn Hare shows fourth-year Child and Youth Studies and Psychology student Dana Kalil equipment at Pathstone Mental Health that will allow Brock researchers to analyze electroencephalogram data.

“This partnership with Brock University will have a far-reaching impact and it will provide mutual benefits to the well-being of the Niagara community,” said Shaun Baylis, CEO, Pathstone Mental Health. “It creates the opportunity for co-developed research to advance brain health knowledge, and to crystalize our existing supportive and collaborative relationship.”

Friday’s announcement took place at Pathstone’s Branscombe Mental Health Centre in St. Catharines, where Brock faculty members and students have been provided with office and lab space, giving them direct access to children and families interested in participating in groundbreaking research.

“These collaborations with partner organizations are critically important to the health and well-being of our Niagara community,” said Brock President Gervan Fearon. “This collaboration will provide our students with invaluable hands-on experience as they work alongside Pathstone’s team of support workers and clinicians.”

Together with their undergraduate and graduate student research teams, Brock professors have started, or are about to begin a number of important research initiatives:

  • Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of Neuroscience Dawn Good and PhD candidate Caitlin Gallant are researching the neuropsychological and socioemotional factors that predict the severity and complexity of mental health challenges in children and youth.
  • Professor of Psychology Sid Segalowitz and Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies Ayda Tekok-Kilic, along with a number of students, are using an electroencephalogram (EEG) installed at Pathstone to study anxiety disorders and ADHD. By examining brain activity, researchers are able to evaluate in what way interventions are effective when appearing to use standard psychological measures.
  • Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies Colleen Hood and PhD student Lauren Cripps are examining the impact of therapeutic recreation intervention designed to support the development of positive identity for youth with mental health challenges.
  • Associate Professor of Psychology Angela Book and PhD student Nathalie Gauthier are examining factors around anti-social behaviour and specifically looking at how parenting style may mitigate the effect of childhood adversity on these behaviours.
  • Associate Professor of Child and Youth Studies Tricia Vause is launching a project evaluating the benefits of blending behaviour therapy with recreational dance to equip children with coping strategies while giving them the added benefit of improved motor skills, self-esteem and helping them form new friendships.
  • A collaboration between Professor of Linguistics Gary Libben, Professors Tekok-Kilic, Segalowitz, and their students and postdocs will develop an EEG tool for assessing reactivity to common words with negative/positive versus neutral connotations (such as ‘destroy’ vs ‘build’ vs ‘change’) to assess vocabulary and emotional reactivity in children and youth with psychological challenges.

In addition, Brock’s Faculty of Education is working with Pathstone to develop a training program aimed at helping teachers deal with complex mental health issues in the classroom.

Segalowitz, Director of Brock’s Centre for Lifespan Development Research, which has worked with Pathstone for a number of years, said the MOU also offers Brock students across various faculties unique opportunities for experiential education.

“Students are often very interested in clinical issues, but to get involved in clinical research is sometimes difficult and certainly you need a special kind of partnership,” he said. “With this partnership, we’ll be able to boost their career development in this direction in ways we haven’t been able to in the past.”

Bill Helmeczi, Pathstone Director of Strategic Planning, Standards and Practices, called it a dynamic and positive partnership.

“The research presents great opportunities not only for Pathstone staff and Brock faculty, but also the entire Niagara community,” he said. “By bringing clinical staff together with researchers, I think we can build a dynamic research program that fosters a great deal of benefit as researchers become more aware of the specific challenges we face in dealing with children’s mental health in the region.”

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