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Provincial grant supports innovations in mental health care for youth

Ontario Trillium Foundation awards $75,000 grant to Mental Health INcubator for Disruptive Solutions (MINDS) of London-Middlesex.

Dr. Arlene MacDougall accepting the plaque from OTF and area MPPs

Local MPPs Peggy Sattler (London West) and Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre), with OTF Grant Review Team member Chris Harding presented a congratulatory plaque to MINDS Director Dr. Arlene MacDougall. 

On Friday, November 23, 2018, the Mental Health INcubator for Disruptive Solutions (MINDS) of London-Middlesex welcomed community members and stakeholders at Innovation Works for an update on the work of the MINDS team and announced the generous contributions of the Ontario Trillium Foundation. 

Local MPPs Peggy Sattler (London West) and Terence Kernaghan (London North Centre), with OTF Grant Review Team member Chris Harding were on hand to congratulate the MINDS members, including Pillar Nonprofit Network, and hear more about how the $75,000 OTF Grant will contribute to the mental health of transitional aged youth in the London and Middlesex region. 

As a research project through Lawson Health Research Institute, MINDS is taking a unique approach to improving the mental health of the community’s transitional age youth – people ages 17 to 25. 

A key aspect is to successfully work in partnership with youth to make sense of and address this complex challenge. 

“Today’s youth are unlike any generation before,” explains Dr. Arlene MacDougall, Director and Principal Investigator for MINDS. “Many of our processes, structures, models and concepts that we have used to serve, educate, employ, care for and communicate with youth in the past are no longer appropriate, relevant or effective for the youth of today.”

Dr. MacDougall is also Director of Research and Innovation for mental health care at St. Joseph’s Health Care London and Assistant Director for mental health research at Lawson. 

Youth today are more diverse, connected and educated. Although many are reaping benefits from these qualities, others are facing significant challenges such as finding a full time job, being social excluded, negative effects of digital life including cyberbullying and physical health challenges like rising obesity. 

“Evidence from acute care and community sectors shows an increase in the number and acuity of mental health and addiction challenges experienced by our local transitional age youth,” states Dr. MacDougall. “We see this as a persistent and ‘wicked’ challenge – it is difficult to define and many factors contribute to it.” 

Over the last few years, across Canada and locally, there have been higher rates of emergency visits and inpatient hospitalizations for youth with mental disorders; an increase in the number of youth seeking help for mental illnesses; and, youth experiencing increased rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts. 

“We have been listening to local youth and their adult allies. We are hearing from youth with lived experience of mental illness and those who do not have a lived experience. And we are working on making sense of the upstream social drivers and components of poor mental health for transitional age youth,” explains Dr. MacDougall.

“On the flip side, we are exploring the potential action areas, levers and opportunities for shifting our community and our system to promote youth mental and emotional wellbeing – reaching them sooner and in the way they need.” 

As a social innovation lab, MINDS will use a collective impact framework to develop and test high impact solutions. This provides a structured process and creative environment where the team can prototype radical but possible innovations, while merging with youth-led participatory action research. 

“The collective impact framework enables us to can tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems. It is an innovative yet structured approach to making collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organizations and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change.” 

MINDS has the support of a diverse network of key individuals and partnering organizations including cross-sectoral service providers, community leaders, mental health advocates and youth from the region. This includes Lawson, St. Joseph’s, London Health Sciences Centre, Western University, mindyourmind, Goodwill Industries and CMHA Middlesex. The project has also received funding support from St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation.

“We are thrilled that many partners in the community are coming together to look for disruptive solutions that will create a lasting impact for youth,” explains Dr. MacDougall. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first social innovation lab dedicated to improving community mental health to be established in Canada.

The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded more than $120 million to some 700 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario.