Page 1

Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health Backgrounder

The Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health is a partnership between Sun Life Financial, Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre. The Chair’s vision is to help improve the mental health of youth by the effective translation and transfer of scientific knowledge. Its model is to use the best scientific evidence available to develop application-ready training programs, publications, tools and resources that can be applied across disciplines to enhance the understanding of adolescent mental health issues. Dr. Stan Kutcher (Chair holder) and his team are working to create, develop and deliver nationally and internationally recognized research, education and clinical programs by collaborating with health care providers, policymakers, schools, the business community, non-profit organizations and the general public. The reality is that many severe and persistent mental disorders, including depression, schizophrenia, bipolar illness, anxiety disorders, etc. often begin during the adolescent years. Mental illness is a serious problem, and if it is not properly diagnosed and treated it can negatively impact the health and well-being of youth for years to come. By creating a greater public understanding and awareness of mental health issues we can help to overcome the stigma of mental illness and provide a greater chance for young people with mental disorders to feel comfortable in coming forward and asking for help early on. The Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health was established in the Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University’s Medical School in October, 2006. Funding for the Chair comes from many sources including: a $1 million contribution from Sun Life Financial, major contributions from the TR Meighen Foundation, Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation, and the Kathryn Weldon Foundation, as well as a broad range of additional support from corporate, foundation, friends and family donors. The Chair also receives ongoing support from the IWK Health Centre and the Dalhousie University Department of Psychiatry.

Facts on Adolescent Mental Health

The overall prevalence of mental illness in Canadian children and adolescents, at any given point in time, is about 15%

The most common are anxiety (6.5%), conduct (3.3%), attention deficit (3.3%), depressive (2.1%) and substance use (0.8%) disorders.

Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide.

This translates into approximately 1.2 million of Canadian children and adolescents who experience mental illness and/or addiction of sufficient severity to cause significant distress and impaired functioning.

If not recognized and treated in the early stages, mental illness can progress, becoming deeply entrenched and more difficult to treat by the time the person reaches adulthood. The signs of mental disorder in youth, which include apathy, behaviour problems, and the deterioration of school performance and social relationships, often go unrecognized.

In Canada, 1 in 5 children in need of mental health treatments receive it. Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada. Less than 4% of medical research funding goes to mental illness research.

For more information or media inquiries contact: David Venn, Advisor to the Chair Ph: (902) 470-6582 Email:

Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health Biography

Dr. Stanley Kutcher, MD, FRCPC Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health Dr. Kutcher is an internationally-renowned expert in the area of adolescent mental health and a national and international leader in mental health research, advocacy, training, policy, and health services innovation. Dr. Kutcher uses his considerable expertise to advance the work of the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health, building awareness and knowledge about mental health in young people through the development of programs that address adolescent mental health promotion, education and research, locally, nationally and internationally. Dr. Kutcher most recently served as Associate Dean of International Medical Development & Research with Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine. At Dalhousie, he has been chair of the Department of Psychiatry and has led the development of the Life Sciences Development Association, the Brain Repair Centre, and the International Health Office. He is also the Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre in Mental Health at Dalhousie. Amongst other awards and honors in 2003 Dr. Kutcher was chosen by Atlantic Progress Magazine as one of the top 20 innovators in Atlantic Canada. He was named as the 2004 National Champion of Mental Health Research by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, received the 2005 Mary Seeman award from the Canadian Psychiatry Research Foundation and in 2007 was elected as an Honorary Fellow of the Canadian Psychiatric Association in recognition of his achievements in mental health work. Dr. Kutcher has been recognized as a “Best Doctor” in Canada, was awarded the 2008 Health Promotion Award by Doctors Nova Scotia, received the 2008 CCNP Medal for his contributions in the development of neuropsychopharmacology in Canada, and has recently been elected as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Dr. Kutcher was a founding member of the Canadian Association for Mood and Anxiety Treatment, the Advisory Board for the Institute of Neuroscience, Mental Health and Addictions (Canadian Institutes of Health Research), the Science Advisory Committee of NeuroScience Canada, and the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research. He has served as a board member for the Canadian Society for International Health; and the Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation and is currently a member of the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s Child and Youth Advisory Panel. Internationally he has worked with various governments, international organizations (such as the WHO and PAHO) and through Canadian government agencies such as Health Canada and CIDA to address a variety of mental health issues. These have included but are not limited to: peer education to address mental health and peace building in northern Uganda; the development of national mental health policies and plans for Grenada and Guyana; training of health providers to deliver mental health care in a number of low income countries; the development of community based primary care mental health care capacity in Brazil; situational reviews of mental health care provision in the English speaking Caribbean, the development and delivery of a mental health clinical research training and capacity building program in Cuba, the development and delivery of a community based post disaster mental health care training program in Grenada, a public mental health/global mental health education and training program in various countries. His current interests include translating mental health research into clinical care, patient and parent empowerment, health systems/health policy and optimization of mental health care/mental health clinical research through the training of community based health human resources in primary care. He has co-developed a number of innovative health human resources training programs for mental health competencies that have been delivered in different countries and has participated in the writing of a number of national mental health policies/plans. He is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and also author/co-author of a number of medical textbooks, has edited the. Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology News and has been a consultant to various organizations on issues pertaining to mental health treatments and program reviews in children, adolescents and adults alike. Dr. Kutcher is a nationally and internationally active speaker, reviewer and technical consultant in psychiatry and mental health. His work in international medical development and research advances health sector knowledge in mental health across various disciplines and health care delivery systems. His knowledge and experience in policy development, research, health systems/service delivery, knowledge translation and clinical care provide him with a broad perspective on the many issues pertinent to mental health. His track record of innovation across multiple domains is consistent with his personal commitment to using best evidence to inform the creation and delivery of those programs, activities and interventions, which will improve the mental health of populations and enhance the quality of life of those with mental disorders. For more information or media inquiries contact: David Venn, Advisor to the Chair Ph: (902) 470-6582 Email:

Fast Facts about Teen Mental Health 1.

The teenage years (13 to 25) are the HEALTHIEST years of your life!


The most common illnesses during the teen years are disorders of brain functioning called mental illnesses.


Mental illness and having a mental health problem are not the same thing – everyone gets a mental health problem sometimes but about 10 to 15 percent of teenagers will have a mental illness (also called a mental disorder).


Mental health problems include such things as: feeling low and down after a relationship breaks up; feeling very discouraged after working hard and not doing well on tests or exams; feeling very upset about not making the school team; being bullied by someone or bullying someone; feeling stressed out because of problems at home or at school; feeling anxious about a first date; etc.


Mental health problems can usually be solved with help from friends or a caring adult or by using healthy techniques that help you get rid of stress – such as: exercise; listening to or playing music; hanging out with good friends; dancing; etc.


Some common mental illnesses that come on during the teen years are: depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, anorexia nervosa, bulimia. Mental illnesses are not a sign of personal weakness.


Some mental disorders come on during childhood and continue during the teen years, some of these are: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism.


Using illegal drugs can make it much easier for a teenager to develop a mental disorder such as schizophrenia, panic disorder, bipolar disorder or depression.


Suicide in teenagers is usually due to a mental disorder that is not recognized and not treated – such as depression. Suicide is a leading cause of death in teenagers.

10. Suicide is not usually a response to stress. Between 10 to 30 percent of teenagers may think about suicide during the teen years, but only a few commit suicide. This is a tragedy because if the mental disorder was recognized and treated the suicide may well not have occurred. 11. Mental disorders usually need professional help such as from a doctor, a psychologist, a counsellor, etc. to help you get better. Sometimes people who have a mental disorder will need to take a medicine to help them get well. 12. There are many good treatments for mental disorders and they include psychological therapies and medications. 13. Most people who have a mental illness can be successfully treated and live positive and productive lives. 14. Contrary to misperceptions arising from media coverage, most people who have a mental disorder are not violent and most people who have psychosis are not dangerous. 15. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in knowing about mental disorders and how to best treat them. Unlike what you may see in movies, psychiatrists do not help people by having them lie on a couch and talk about things.


Slc media kit(2)  
Slc media kit(2)