TRAM, or Transformational Research in Adolescent Mental Health, is a trans-Canada research initiative aimed at uniting stakeholders to work toward a common goal: improve the country's ability to identify mental illness in young people, as well as timely access to and quality of care to help them. Dr. Tait explained the first step for the Saskatchewan team is to consult with First Nations partners to establish how the research will be done and the resulting knowledge shared.
"This initiative comes at a critical time when governments are cutting the already extremely limited funding available for essential community programs and services." said FSIN First Vice Chief Kimberly Jonathan. "First Nations youth struggle with the highest disparities in health and social determinants and we see this in their cries for help that lead to higher drug and alcohol use, higher encounters with the justice system and most tragically, in higher youth suicide rates. Don't all youth in Canada deserve better?"
Funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Graham Boeckh Foundation, the national TRAM initiative is based at McGill University and Douglas Hospital and led by Dr. Ashok Malla, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Early Psychosis. Dr. Tait said that about $1.2 million of the national funding is expected to back the Saskatchewan team's efforts.
Current mental health services rarely offer the most effective social, psychological, and related treatments, she explains, and they often fail to engage youth in their design or delivery. While new early intervention and specialized, youth-friendly mental health services show promise, they remain largely unavailable to the majority of needy youth in Canada.
Key to the success of TRAM is its broad-based community partnerships, both provincially with FSIN and nationally through the Native Mental Health Association of Canada. The Indigenous People's Health Research Centre, a joint initiative of the First Nations University of Canada, the University of Regina, and the U of S, is also integral to the effort.
The TRAM team has also set themselves a deadline: to improve, within five years, Canada's ability to identify young people with mental illness, and improve the timeliness and quality of care provided to them. Dr. Tait said the Saskatchewan team expects to begin their work this summer.
Director of Special Projects
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations
Media Relations Specialist
University of Saskatchewan