Researchers within the Psychosocial Axis are trained in psychiatry, psychology, nursing, anthropology, public health, and cognitive neuroscience. They bring wide-ranging expertise to the study of psychosocial elements of physical and mental illness and conduct important critical evaluations on how health research is conducted. The Axis concentrates on three distinct themes:
I. Cultural Psychiatry
Located in the heart of Montreal’s most ethnically and culturally diverse neighbourhood, the Psychiatry Department of the Jewish General Hospital is world-renowned for its work on how culture influences symptom expression, help-seeking behaviour, adherence to treatment, and response to health communications, with regard to both mental disorders (such as depression and anxiety) and chronic illness (such as cardiovascular disease and cancer). There is a particular emphasis on studies of vulnerable populations, such as Aboriginal groups, immigrants, and refugees in the interest of informing health policy and reducing disparities in access. A recent initiative involves the development and implemention of an innovative culturally-based, family-centred mental health promotion program for Aboriginal youth living in rural and remote communities across Canada.
II. Psychosocial Factors in Disease
Among patients contending with serious illnesses, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and sleep disorders, psychological distress is associated with increased morbidity and greater utilization of health care services, and attendant increases in health care costs. Consequently, the development and evaluation of screening and treatment programs for such diseases are important areas of research. For example, research in psychosocial oncology addresses coping, communication, and risk information transmission to improve health outcomes and quality of life for cancer patients and their families. We are also innovators in the development and evaluation of accessible, evidence-based psychosocial interventions to reduce distress and disability and to enhance quality of life in medical patients.
Our research advances knowledge by investigating not only the behavioural, psychological,and physiological factors associated with pain and/or disability in patients, but also the largely neglected issue of family and caregiver responses. Women’s health issues are another important focus of research, including studies of mental health problems during pregnancy and postpartum, screening for gynecological cancers, and sociocultural factors associated with decisions about breastfeeding.
III. Etiology and Treatment of Mental Disorders
This theme focuses research on biological and psychosocial risk factors for the development of psychiatric disorders in adults and children. Psychotherapy research looks at patient characteristics as well as aspects of the treatment process that are associated with outcomes in patients with recurrent depression. Research in cognitive neuroscience investigates the role of placebo effects in psychiatric treatment and the use of attention training to treat Tourette’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Dr. Carmen Loiselle