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The University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Nursing has received nearly a quarter of a million dollars in funding for two new research projects led by Dr. Hua Li (PhD). (Photo: Submitted)

USask College of Nursing receives funding to address mental health issues

University of Saskatchewan (USask) assistant professor Dr. Hua Li (PhD) has received two grants totalling over $225,000 to tackle mental health and addiction-related challenges.

The University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Nursing has received nearly a quarter of a million dollars in funding for two new research projects led by Dr. Hua Li (PhD). Aligned with the college’s signature research areas, the projects aim to enhance outcomes and quality of life for patients with mental health and addiction (MHA) disorders and their caregivers in Saskatchewan.

Approximately $120,000 was provided through an establishment grant from the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) to address emergency department visits in Saskatoon related to mental health and addiction.

“Mental health and addiction-related visits to emergency departments have been widely publicized as a crisis in Saskatoon,” said Dr. Li. “This three-year project has the potential to build access and support for patients with MHA disorders in Saskatoon by identifying unmet needs and service gaps.”

Based on input from patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers, Dr. Li and her team plan to research and highlight strategies to address MHA emergency department visits. She hopes that her team’s findings can be shared with other communities in Saskatchewan and across Canada.

Dr. Li, Dr. Lorraine Holtslander (RN, PhD), and the research team have also been awarded a $105,000 grant from the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation to develop a smartphone app that will provide support for caregivers of children and adolescents with mental health and addiction disorders.

These caregivers are at a higher risk of developing depressive and anxiety symptoms as well as adverse physical health and compromised quality of life said Dr. Li.

Citing growing evidence that children and adolescents’ well-being is significantly affected by their caregivers’ mental health, Dr. Li hopes this two-year pilot project will improve the caregivers' mental health and well-being.

“Our team aims to develop an accessible, innovative, community-based, and technologically feasible smartphone app as a resource for caregivers to find reliable information, navigate healthcare services, and create communities of support,” said Li.

Data collection for each project will commence after ethics approval and operational approval are obtained.

Dr. Li acknowledges that working concurrently on two important College of Nursing research projects will pose unique challenges, but she points to several colleagues and organizations that will be instrumental in conducting and supporting this research over the next few years.

In addition to senior researchers Dr. Lorraine Holtslander and Dr. Shelley Peacock (RN, PhD), several experts in mental health and addiction, and a number of patient and family advisory members, Dr. Li thanks collaborators such as the Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan and Mental Health and Addiction Services of the Saskatoon Health Region for providing their support to these research projects.

Dr. Li is also quick to express gratitude to the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation, its donors, and to SHRF for providing essential funding.

“This funding will allow me and my teams to help improve the mental health and well-being of patients with mental health and addiction issues. It will also help caregivers and provide an opportunity to collaborate and build important relationships within the community.”

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