In the IMHR Youth Unit, the main areas of research are eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders in children and adolescents. The program aims to identify the risk and resilience factors involved in the onset and maintenance of these disorders, and to investigate the mechanisms of action of evidence-based and innovative treatments. Part of the research is community-based, e.g., studies on risk and protective factors for eating and weight disorders in adolescents. Another research approach involves youth with current psychopathology, who after inclusion in case-control studies, are offered to participate in one of several research treatment protocols. Thus, adolescents diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are eligible for either a study on biological and psychological changes following cognitive-behavioural therapy, or a study on clinical and physiological changes associated with pharmacological treatment. Other research projects examine the outcomes and predictors of response to naturalistic treatment within the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre (ROMHC) Clinical Youth Program, or the response of young adolescents to an innovative online treatment. Several local or international collaborative studies investigate a diversity of risk factors for anxiety and depression in children and adolescents.
Together with the ROMHC Youth Program (Clinical Director, Dr. Thatte), the IMHR Youth Unit has developed a specialized outpatient clinic for youth with anxiety disorders, in which a common standardized diagnostic evaluation procedure supports the diagnostic evaluation of the clinician, while providing systematic data for Program Evaluation (Program Lead, Dr. Makinen) and eligibility for research protocols. Several of the currently funded research studies provide clinical participants with state-of-the art or innovative treatments under close medical supervision, which contributes significantly to the clinical services available for youth at the ROMHC.
To facilitate youth and families access to our treatment studies, as well as to enhance knowledge transfer to the community regarding ongoing or completed research, we have established collaborations with local and provincial patients and families advocacy groups (e.g., the Anxiety Disorders Association of Ontario). For studies involving non-referred research participants, we have developed partnerhips with Ontario Anglophone (Ottawa Carleton District School Board, Ottawa Carleton Catholic School Board, and Upper Canada District School Board) and Francophone school boards (Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien). The IMHR Youth Unit has established links with the Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health (Dr. Manion, Dr. Davidson), and with mental health clinicians and researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO; Dr. Davidson, Dr. Lyons).