Dec. 20, 2019

Mathison Centre tackles complexity of youth-to-adult mental health transition

UCalgary researchers and community partners share knowledge to better understand the needs of youth and their families

Katelyn Greer and Fiona Haynes have two important things in common: they both have first-hand knowledge of what it’s like living with mental illness, and both are dedicated in their day-to-day work to helping improve the lives of those with mental disorders.

Greer, who experienced mental illness for much of her youth, is now a peer support worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association, helping young people by sharing her story and experiences with them.

  • Photo above: Katelyn Greer shares her personal story of living with mental illness as a youth. Photo by Reece Barret, for the Mathison Centre 

Haynes is a full time support to her daughter, a 24-year-old who began struggling with mental illness when she was 12. Haynes is also the program co-ordinator for the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s HEADSTRONG program, a national, youth-led initiative that teaches students how to reduce stigma and become mental health champions in their schools.

One more commonality: Haynes and Greer are helping inform research to understand the unique needs of young adults with mental illness as they transition into adulthood a life phase known as emerging adulthood. Until now, there has not been a lot of research conducted on the mental health of emerging adults. But researchers Dr. Gina Dimitropoulos, PhD, and Dr. Scott Patten, PhD, MD, are working to change this.

Mathison Centre director Paul Arnold stands along  Gina Dimitropoulos, Katelyn Greer, Fiona Haynes, Scott Patten & Qasim Hirani.

Paul Arnold, left, Gina Dimitropoulos, Katelyn Greer, Fiona Haynes, Scott Patten and Qasim Hirani.

Reece Barrett, for the Mathison Centre

“Research suggests that emerging adults those aged 16 to 25 are among the least likely to seek and access mental health services,” says Dimitropoulos, who studies mental health in youth and emerging adults at the University of Calgary. She was recently joined by Greer and Haynes along with other mental health experts at the 2019 Mathison Series event to share knowledge with community members about emerging adults living with mental illness and their transition to the adult mental health system.

“Navigating the transition from youth to adult mental health care can be challenging for patients and their families,” says Dimitropoulos. “We are working to understand more about this life phase for people with mental illness, and capturing youth voices in the planning of mental health delivery services is essential in ensuring appropriate outcomes.”  

Mind the Gap: Research on Mental Health in Emerging Adults, presented at the 2019 Mathison Series, brought together community members from the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Mental Health Commission of Canada along with experts from Alberta Health Services, The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). The Mathison Series is an annual event that invites community members, business leaders and mental health experts to collaborate and share knowledge about mental health.

Gina Dimitropoulos is associate professor in the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work, and in the CSM’s Department of Psychiatry. She is a member of The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education, the HBI, and ACHRI at the CSM.

The Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education at the University of Calgary supports research and education into the early identification, prevention and treatment of mental illness, with a special emphasis on children, youth and emerging adult populations. The Mathison Centre was made possible by a $10 million investment from Ronald P. Mathison, and created by the Hotchkiss Brain Institute and the Department of Psychiatry. Learn more about the Mathison Centre.