Two Hamilton researchers will study post traumatic stress in emergency services
Media Outlet: Hamilton Spectator | Date: February 14, 2019 | Reporter: Joanna Frketich
Hamilton researchers are teaming up with scientists in France to determine the links between mind and body that could one day bring about more personalized mental health treatments.
“The hope for the patients one day is that when they come with depression, we don’t give them only an anti-depressant,” said Dr. Flávio Kapczinski, professor of psychiatry at McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare.
“We give them a whole strategy on how they would get outside the risk zone for depression.
“We could give them exercise, correct their metabolism with some sort of diet and give them anti-inflammatories.”
The partnership with the Pasteur Institute was one of three new Hamilton mental health projects launched in February.
The other two will investigate post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) in public safety personal such as firefighters, paramedics, police officers and correctional workers.
Both received grants of up to $150,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research as part of $2.95 million in federal funding announced Feb. 8 to studies that increase understanding of how to identify, treat and prevent PTSI.
Margaret McKinnon, chair in mental health and trauma at McMaster, will do a randomized control trial to test a new way to treat PTSI in public safety personal with other health conditions.
Occupational therapist Sandra Moll plans to design a mobile health approach to prevention and peer support.
“Public safety personnel put themselves in harm’s way to protect Canadians, putting them disproportionately at risk of post-traumatic stress injuries,” federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness Ralph Goodale said in a statement.
“Our country must do more to protect the mental well-being of public safety officers on-the-job. The initiatives will help address gaps in PTSI research and inform long-term plans to support the mental health and well-being of our public safety personnel.”
Meanwhile, the new partnership with the French researchers is significant because it gives St. Joseph’s Healthcare and McMaster access to basic science research that they don’t have now.
In turn, they offer Pasteur large cohorts of patients from West 5th hospital that the French are currently missing.
“We are accumulating a lot of data in this field now and thanks to this collaboration we’re going to have access to large cohorts,” head of Pasteur’s perception and memory unit Dr. Pierre-Marie Lledo said during a trip to Hamilton on Feb 7.
“We get a full picture of how the brain functions by having access to the clinical data.”
It’s also unique because French researchers generally team up with Quebec investigators.
“When France would partner with Canada they never crossed the Gatineau River,” said Kapczinski.
“Now the commitment of the French Embassy is to bring to the attention of French scientists this whole perspective of dealing with many other centres like McMaster. We are looking to the idea of strengthening the scientific links between Canada and France.”
So far, funding is primarily from their own institutions and the French Embassy, but they are working on applying for grants to study many different potential mind and body links.
“We were finding our patients when they have depression, they have a lot of inflammation in their blood,” said Kapczinski.
“We didn’t know the cause of that. Pasteur is famous because it’s where immunology and inflammation started to be understood … so we reached out to the director and he was very excited.”
Other questions vary from gut bacteria to exercise to metabolism to electric signalling between fatty tissues of the brain.
“People who suffer from depression they suffer a lot of brain changes like accelerated aging,” said Kapczinski.
“The brain and the body as a whole starts to age faster and we want to understand the mechanisms associated with that.”