McMaster researchers get share of $28M to aid mental health initiatives for front-line workers

A pair of McMaster University researchers will get a combined $4.5 million in federal funds to advance posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) initiatives tied to COVID-19.

The money is a part of public health funding of $28.2 million announced on Monday for nine projects addressing frontline workers whose mental health has been significantly impacted by the pandemic.

Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett revealed the money will help not only health care and public safety workers but their families, personal support workers, and long-term care workers.

“Today’s investment provides an opportunity to evaluate and build evidence about effective interventions for PTSD,” Bennett told researchers at the University of Regina on Monday.

“It’s also an opportunity to scale up these interventions so that they can reach more people in need of them.”

All in, the Trudeau government will commit $50 million over the next two years to support projects geared toward interventions for frontline workers suffering from PTSD.

The McMaster portion will aid two supports: an evidence-based resource project helping individuals recognize trauma- and stress-related experiences; and the “Beyond Silence” mobile app targeting up to 50,000 healthcare workers potentially exposed to PTSD.

Margaret McKinnon, professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences, says the $2.96 million set for the Healthcare Salute project hoping to reach around 75,000 health-care workers at 708 Canadian public hospitals as per a previous study suggesting one in four health-care workers have reported symptoms consistent with PTSD.

“One in two health-care workers in our study report they are considering leaving their current position due to moral distress encountered during the pandemic,” said McKinnon, who is also a research lead for mental health and addiction at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton.

“These data point to the enormous sacrifice of healthcare workers and their families throughout the pandemic and highlight further the current threat to the continuity of our healthcare system.”

McMaster’s School of Rehabilitation Science will get $1.56 million to further develop, implement and evaluate its Beyond Silence smartphone app designed for early intervention and support for frontline health-care workers.

“Providing access to customized, private, high quality mental health support in the palm of people’s hands is an important step towards supporting the health of our front-line workers,” associate professor Sandra Moll said in a release.

Moll will also lead a multi-sector OnCall implementation team in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) at the University of Regina.

The CIPSRT team is also receiving $3.71 million of the federal funds to advance OnCall research to offer peer support for close to 30,000 public safety communicators, correctional workers, firefighters and paramedics.

The biggest single funding item in Monday’s announcement is just over $9 million earmarked for the University of Regina’s CIPSRT, which will evaluate and support 103,600 public safety personnel and frontline health care workers across the country regularly exposed to potential psychologically traumatic events and posttraumatic stress injuries.

In all, the University of Regina will receive $20 million for projects addressing PTSD, the largest one-time funding announcement in the school’s history.

McMaster University is a public research university in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The main McMaster campus is on 121 hectares of land near the residential neighbourhoods of Ainslie Wood and Westdale, adjacent to the Royal Botanical Gardens.
McMaster University is a public research university in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The main McMaster campus is on 121 hectares of land near the residential neighbourhoods of Ainslie Wood and Westdale, adjacent to the Royal Botanical Gardens.

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