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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: Christina Carew, ABC, Public Affairs Advisor to the Chair 902.470.6582 Email: christina.carew@iwk.nshealth.ca www.teenmentalhealth.org


Slmedia kit revised august 2010