CAMH research is informing public policy and transforming perspectives on mental illness and suicide around the world. While 90 per cent of suicides are associated with mental illness, the vast majority of people with mental illness do not die by suicide. Understanding why some people are more at risk than others will inform evidence-informed decision-making on suicide prevention.
Our research found that the suicide rate for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders is over 20 times higher than the general population and that people with schizophrenia who die by suicide have a different risk profile than people with other mental illnesses who die by suicide. This information can help us target and tailor specific interventions for this population. Similarly, our growing knowledge of risk and protective factors in Indigenous and transgender communities can help us work with these communities on customized interventions.
CAMH is also researching and evaluating various suicide prevention efforts to help us identify the best strategies for reducing suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Our scientists recently discovered that repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can reduce suicidal thoughts in people with treatment-resistant depression. These are preliminary findings, but knowledge such as this can help us advocate for better access to evidence-informed interventions and ensure that people get the mental health treatment they need to reduce their risk of suicide. Other CAMH research looking at the link between suicide and family history, trauma, substance use and poverty shows us the complex nature of suicide and highlights the need for whole-of-society response to suicide prevention.
CAMH scientists are revolutionizing our understanding of the brain and finding new ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent mental illness through advances in brain imaging, brain stimulation, molecular tools and data sciences. With this knowledge and a growing understanding of how the brain, social factors and physiology are interconnected, we’re looking at the underlying causes of suicide through new lenses, exploring how changes in brain function are linked to behaviours and symptoms related to mental health.
Our researchers have developed a molecule that shows promise in reversing memory loss linked to depression and aging. Early research shows it rapidly improves symptoms, and actually appears to heal the brain. Other research points to a groundbreaking discovery about a new potential treatment and prevention for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Our scientists have recently uncovered a protein complex that is elevated in patients with PTSD. They have also designed a peptide that may treat symptoms of this debilitating condition, or possibly prevent them entirely.
We're beginning to unlock opportunities to identify and respond to these and many other conditions based on their true underlying causes and to design precision treatments that account for the unique needs of patients. New perspectives make it clearer than ever that mental health must be treated like every other health issue. It's the only way we can continue the work necessary to give the one in three Canadians affected by brain disease or disorder—and their family, friends, colleagues and caregivers—the help and hope they deserve.
By examining how mental illness and suicidal ideation affect individuals as well as populations, we’re working toward a model of personalized care to provide patients with more compassionate, effective treatment.More Information
By examining how mental illness and suicidal ideation affects individuals as well as populations, we’re working toward a model of personalized care to provide patients with more compassionate, effective treatment.
We engage in research with patients, caregivers and the myriad of different communities we serve. We generate knowledge to understand how age, sex, diagnosis, symptoms, biology and other factors affect the course of illness. As the largest research facility in Canada focusing on mental illness that provides care to a diverse patient population with a full breadth of conditions, CAMH is well positioned to achieve this goal.
People of South Asian origin have the highest perceived barriers to mental health treatment, and are 85 per cent less likely to seek treatment for mental illness, which is why CAMH is currently developing a culturally adapted form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Canadians of South Asian origin. Another unique and marginalized population is the LGBTQ2S community. A recent CAMH-led study revealed that more than three in four LGBTQ2S homeless youth in Ontario’s York Region have overdosed in the last year and almost four in ten have attempted suicide, highlighting the need for better services and supports.
The risk factors for suicide are complex and multifaceted; however, using a personalized approach to mental health, CAMH envisions a world where every individual receives care tailored to their unique genetics, history and situation.
With more than 120 leading scientists at the core of our research program, breakthroughs are being made every day.
“When patients have loved ones who refuse to give up on them, they have hope.”
"That’s the beauty of our finding. If we can predict who will develop PTSD, we could potentially intervene and prevent them from getting it."
"We’re hoping to change the way people understand suicide and suicide prevention."
"My goal is to prevent, reduce and find ways to ultimately end LGBTQ2S+ youth homelessness in Canada."
"People look to us for hope. We are here. We can help."
"I hope to raise awareness about the impact of mental health symptoms on quality of life and functioning in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and develop effective treatments that improve mental health and outcomes."