There’s the old saying that two heads are better than one. In the scientific world, collaboration often produces better research — hence the theme of this year’s fourth annual Young Researchers‘ Conference, “Collaborations for Change.”
There was something for everyone at the March 23rd conference, sponsored by The Royal’s Institute of Mental Health Research. More than 200 young researchers from Ontario and Quebec universities working in various fields of mental health research, such as psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, social work and nursing, as well as undergraduate students, enjoyed a smorgasbord of topics. Here are some highlights:
• A keynote lecture by acclaimed Dr. Gabor Maté, a physician and counselor who currently works in Vancouver’s famed Downtown Eastside, on how childhood adversity — abuse, family stress or poor attachment with parents — can lead to mental health disorders and addictions later on
• The personal story of Chris Curry, a mental health and addictions counsellor, musician and author of the memoir Completely in Blue: Dispatches from the Edge of Insanity, who talked about his battles with depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse and drug-induced psychosis
• A discussion panel on Ethics in Research and Clinical Work, featuring Professor Vanessa Gruben, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa; Wendy Burgess, Policy Analyst, Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research; and Catherine Paquet, Director, Office of Research Ethics and Integrity, University of Ottawa
The personal story session — called “Mental Illness: My Story” — was new to the conference last year, and was so successful that it will continue to be offered, says Lisa Batten, conference chair and a PhD student working in Dr. Pierre Blier’s lab. “Many of the students spend countless hours in the lab working on projects that ultimately affect mental health treatment, but they don’t get a lot of exposure to mental health illness. Hearing from someone who has experienced mental illness gives a human dimension to their work,” says Lisa.
“In addition to the knowledge gained through the sessions offered at our event,” adds Lisa, “we hope that the young researchers attending this conference build collaborations that will ultimately enhance the future of mental health research.”