In 2021, Bell Let’s Talk and Brain Canada joined forces to launch the Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program – a unique initiative to support the development of innovative solutions that will provide effective, sustainable, and accessible mental health care for everyone in Canada.

“Across Canada, we have seen that the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating peoples’ mental health and substance use problems,” says the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Thanks to the Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program, and the hard-working researchers, more Canadians and Indigenous Peoples will have access to the mental health and substance use supports they need – today, and every day. Because there’s no health without mental health.”

It is currently estimated that one in five Canadians will experience some type of mental health issue or illness in any given year, with 1.6 million reporting that their mental health needs are not being fully met. While some individuals benefit greatly, for many living with a mental health issue or illness, the options that are available are not always adequate. The pandemic has only highlighted the need for enhanced mental health research and care initiatives that address this.

By developing new and emerging directions and solutions for mental health challenges, the selected teams are advancing efforts to recognize and respond to the evolving mental health needs of Canadians.

“The Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program is helping to ensure our health care system is equipped with the best treatment options available. We are grateful for this partnership with Bell Let’s Talk as we continue working together to achieve meaningful impact in a field where there is still so much to discover,” says Dr. Viviane Poupon, President and CEO of Brain Canada. “During the application process, we saw a great amount of interest from many key research teams across the country, which is very encouraging for scientific advancement. Neuroscience, including mental health, is a critical research domain to invest in, for a healthier and stronger Canada.”

The Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program recipient teams include some of the best researchers from across the country in the mental health field. The projects are:

• A Randomized Sham-Controlled Trial of Accelerated Intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation for Treatment Resistant Depression – team led by Daniel Blumberger, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

• AID-ME: Artificial Intelligence in Depression – Medication Enhancement: A Randomized, Patient and Rater Blinded, Active-Controlled Trial of a Deep-Learning Enabled Clinical Decision Aid for Personalized Depression Treatment Selection – team led by Manuela Ferrari, Centre de recherche de l’hôpital Douglas – Douglas Hospital Research Centre

• BEAM: Building Emotional Awareness and Mental Health in Parenting. An app-based intervention to improve postpartum mental health and support children’s brain development – team led by Catherine Lebel and Lianne Tomfohr-Madsen, University of Calgary

• Promoting cognitive health in schizophrenia with online psychological interventions: A national implementation strategy centered on a digital learning platform – team led by Martin Lepage, McGill University

• Optimization of Prefrontal Theta-Burst Stimulation to Treat Depression: A Bench to First-in-Human Study – team led by Tarek Rajji, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

Of the five Canadian teams selected to receive grants, two are led by researchers based here in Montreal.

Dr. Martin Lepage from McGill University is closing the research-to-practice gap when it comes to mental health interventions. Together with his team members from across the country, Dr. Lepage is offering entirely online psychological interventions to more than 300 individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders in Montreal, Ottawa, Kingston, Toronto, and Vancouver. His team is also building capacity within the health care community through a digital learning platform by remotely training and supervising mental health practitioners who are implementing these interventions.

“I hope the long-term effects of this project will be to make all kinds of high-quality psychological interventions accessible and available to anybody in need,” notes Dr. Lepage.

Dr. Manuela Ferrari from the Douglas Research Centre is working on a clinical trial to help accelerate the trial-and-error process many patients with depression are subjected to when it comes to finding a treatment option that works. Using artificial intelligence, this research will empower clinicians, patients, and their families to make the right decisions and find the right treatment faster.

“A digital solution and intervention can speed the process of asking questions, collecting information, and sharing this information with the clinical team,” explains Dr. Ferrari. “I really hope that the evidence we are going to generate from this study will help Canadians suffering from depression, along with their relatives and families.”

“On behalf of Bell Let’s Talk, I would like to congratulate these incredible multidisciplinary research teams on the work they are doing to advance mental health care in Canada. Now, more than ever with the impacts of COVID-19, we need to invest in timely research that will generate long-term benefits”, says Mary Deacon, Chair of Bell Let’s Talk. “The Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program is supporting innovative projects that will meet the rising demand for improved, more accessible and more effective mental health care.”

The Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research Program has been made possible by the Canada Brain Research Fund (CBRF), an innovative arrangement between the Government of Canada (through Health Canada) and Brain Canada. To date, Health Canada has invested over $130 million through the CBRF which has been matched by Brain Canada and its donors and partners.

To learn more about the Bell Let’s Talk-Brain Canada Mental Health Research projects and hear directly from the researchers, visit