Two researchers of McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences have received a combined $400,000 in funding for research projects related to COVID-19 and mental health.

Jennifer Couturier and Ryan Van Lieshout are among those whose projects have been allocated funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) through its COVID-19 Mental Health & Substance Use Service Needs and Delivery operating grant program.

Couturier is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at McMaster. She’s a child and adolescent psychiatrist, and the medical co-director of the Pediatric Eating Disorders Program at McMaster Children's Hospital.

She received $200,000 for a project that will enable her team to train clinicians in various locations in Ontario on a virtual adaptation of Family-Based Treatment, a highly specialized and evidence-based treatment for children and adolescents with eating disorders. 

“As the pandemic has created a situation in which young people with eating disorders and their families cannot access care, they are at risk of serious consequences including social isolation, progression of illness, medical complications and even death,” said Couturier.

“This funding will allow us to study the implementation of this virtual treatment including the effectiveness and acceptability for clinicians and patients/families, and will allow young patients access to high quality, virtual care.”

Van Lieshout is an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences and the Albert Einstein/Irving Zucker Chair in Neuroscience at McMaster. He also holds the Canada Research Chair in the Perinatal Programming of Mental Disorders. He is a psychiatrist at the Women's Health Concerns Clinic at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.  

He received $200,000 for a Canada-wide randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of newly developed, online one-day cognitive behavioural therapy-based workshops for postpartum depression.

“Postpartum depression affects up to 15 per cent of women, though rates may be even higher during COVID-19,” said Van Lieshout.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased women's exposure to factors that worsen postpartum depression, and while social distancing measures reduce the spread of the virus, they have made it much more difficult for women to access the care that they need. Interventions that are safe and that can be rolled out on a large scale are urgently required to help these mothers and their families.”