Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education
Researchers, doctors and mental-health professionals are empowered to work toward improved mental health approaches, treatments and outcomes
Loneliness Matters at Every Age
Long before COVID-19, depression affected a significant percentage of people living in long-term care facilities across Canada. Indeed, up to 44 per cent of individuals in such care have reported depressive symptoms — a situation that has long been widely accepted as “normal” for older adults.
Dr. Zahra Goodarzi, BHSc’07, MD’10, MSc’16, an assistant professor and academic geriatrician with the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, says that attitude is misguided. Her current research, as part of the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education, will not only debunk such damaging mental health myths, but also rapidly uncover solutions.
Located at the Foothills campus, the Mathison Centre — fueled by a $10-million gift from Calgary business leader Ron Mathison — offers support and new hope to families in Calgary, throughout Alberta and around the world. The facility empowers researchers, doctors and other mental-health professionals to work toward improved mental health approaches, treatments and outcomes.
Dr. Goodarzi is committed to correcting the harmful narratives around mental illness and older adults. “Depression does affect older adults disproportionately more than younger adults, but that, in part, is because mental health resources are less accessible for that group,” she says.
To make matters worse — given that depression can have devastating negative effects on one’s whole health — older adults who are already dealing with cognitive or physical challenges are vulnerable to more rapid decline. Someone with depression recovering from a stroke, for instance, doesn’t fare as well as someone without a mental health issue. As well, Dr. Goodarzi adds, “depression impacts caregivers.”
Depression does affect older adults disproportionately more than younger adults, but that, in part, is because mental health resources are less accessible for that group.
Dr. Zahra Goodarzi, BHSc’07, MD’10, MSc’16
Assistant Professor and Academic Geriatrician, Hotchkiss Brain Institute
Enter COVID-19 and a dramatic nationwide increase in social isolation and loneliness, which are causes of depression. Dr. Goodarzi and her team are looking at existing data around depression in seniors in long-term care, and reviewing how virtual psychotherapy is accessed. “Our goal is to discover and disseminate the research quickly, across the country, to show the best evidence for older adults with depression, in order to get the right services to people.”
Dr. Goodarzi says many interventions for older adults are not expensive or difficult to offer. Having the Mathison Centre behind her team is a powerful source of support and alignment around mental health priorities — a rare, focused powerhouse among Canadian institutions. “We need not let things get dire for people who are suffering,” she says.
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What Giving Gives Me
Mental health has long been ignored at great social and financial cost. It’s time we start funding the research to make a real difference. I was motivated by the example Harley Hotchkiss, Dick Haskayne and so many others have set to get involved in a significant way and my focus was building in an area where a specific funding commitment could make a tangible and important difference.
Ronald P. Mathison
Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education was created thanks to a gift from Mathison