Dr. Stan Kutcher - Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health
Healthy young minds: Dr. Stan Kutcher translates mental health knowledge into effective programs
As Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health, Dr. Stan Kutcher builds awareness of teen mental health issues among educators, health professionals, parents and young people themselves.
“Mental disorders are very common in adolescents. At any given time, 15 per cent of young people in Canada are living with a mental illness or addiction severe enough to require professional care,” notes Stan, who is one of the world’s leading authorities on child and adolescent mental health. “Unfortunately, their problems often go unrecognized… only one in five receives the mental health services they need.”
Stan and his team want to change these statistics. “We’re designing, implementing and evaluating a wide variety of programs aimed at early recognition and appropriate treatment of mental disorders,” says Stan, adding that early intervention is crucial. “Serious mental illnesses like major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia often emerge in adolescence. If left untreated, they become increasingly difficult to resolve and may result in suicide attempts or a lifetime shadowed by mental illness.”
Working with health professionals, schools, agencies and government, the Sun Life team has translated the latest mental health knowledge into a number of well-received education programs. These include a mental health curriculum for high schools, a training program to help educators and health professionals understand youth depression and suicide, and clinical tools to help professionals more accurately assess mental health status and suicide risk.
Awareness and education are only half the battle. “We realized that barriers in the system actually prevent young people from accessing care,” says Stan. “We developed the ‘Pathways to Care Model’ to remove these barriers and replace them with new systems that ensure youth receive the care they need.”
Based on extensive research, Stan and his team have also published a guide to suicide risk management. This captured the attention of the British Medical Journal, which asked them to prepare the suicide section of its globally influential ‘Point of Care’ clinical resource series. Now they are working with the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness in its efforts to address suicide in the province.
“It’s encouraging to see how open people are to our efforts and how eager they are to help,” says Stan. “Thanks to our team here, and our many partners in Nova Scotia, across Canada, and in several other countries around the world, we are making quite an impact.”
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