2020 took a drastic toll on people’s health in more ways than one. Pre-pandemic, many Canadians were already living with health conditions that impacted their everyday lives, but with the COVID-19 outbreak, the effects of these diseases and disorders were magnified.

Together with its partners, Brain Canada has dedicated the first month of 2021 to launch not one, but two new research programs, initiatives that will fuel scientific innovation and ultimately improve health outcomes for people living in Canada.

“The time to act is now,” says Viviane Poupon, President and CEO of Brain Canada. “We must invest in research that will utilize new and emerging knowledge to meet the rising demand for resources and treatments.”

On January 26, Brain Canada announced its partnership with Bell Let’s Talk to launch the Bell Let’s Talk – Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program, a $4 million dollar boost for mental health research and care initiatives. Funding for the program is made up of a $2 million gift from Bell Let’s Talk matched by the federal government through the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative partnership between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada.

“We’re proud to partner with the federal government and Brain Canada to invest in timely research that will make a major contribution to effective, sustainable and accessible mental health care now and over the long term,” says Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let’s Talk.

As we approach the one year anniversary of the pandemic, feelings of stress, loneliness and fear may be heightened now more than ever. With 40 per cent of Canadians saying their mental health has suffered since the onset of COVID-19, a looming crisis awaits in the shadows of the pandemic – the mental health crisis.

Brain Health

The Douglas – Bell Canada Brain Bank, based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute, is supported by the Brain Canada Foundation

But there is hope.

“We are all living through a stressful period, and we know that Canadians are currently experiencing a deterioration in their mental health,” says Dr. Gustavo Turecki, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, and Co-Director of the Douglas – Bell Canada Brain Bank based at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute. “The new research funding opportunity from Bell Let’s Talk and Brain Canada comes at a critical time. It will inspire scientific breakthroughs – and ultimately it will fund research that will contribute to improving the mental health of Canadians.”

The COVID-19 outbreak has also impacted people’s physical well-being, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

On January 29, just days before the beginning of heart month, a time to shed light on heart disease, stroke and cognitive vascular impairment, Brain Canada and Heart & Stroke announced a new $6M research competition. The Heart-Brain IMPACT Award will generate powerful insight into the heart-brain connection by bringing together experts from a variety of disciplines to collaborate and drive discovery.

“Real change happens when experts from different backgrounds come together to innovate,” says Doug Roth, CEO of Heart & Stroke. “By taking this approach, we will accelerate a much-needed shift around how we explore heart disease and brain disorders and ultimately help address the profound impact these diseases have on people’s lives and the health system.”

Designed to be multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional, this new program aims to influence the entire scope of health research.

“Looking at the brain as one interconnected system with commonalities across neurological disorders and mental illnesses is a critical step towards addressing our current and future challenges,” says Dr. Poupon. “Breakthroughs are on the horizon, and so is a brighter day.”

To learn more about Brain Canada, visit www.braincanada.ca and sign up to receive Brain News, the Foundation’s free monthly newsletter.