Research team members discuss their experiences working in mental health research and share expert advice to reduce mental health stigma.

Celebrated yearly during the first week of May, Mental Health Week is a time for Canadians to promote mental health awareness. In honour of this annual awareness event, three research coordinators from the Mood Disorders Centre at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, under the guidance of DMCBH member Dr. Raymond Lam, discuss the significance of mental health research in improving treatment options and share tips on prioritizing well-being.

Tina (Rui) Chen specializes in project coordination and study management. With over three years of experience, she collaborates with diverse teams and community partners. Tina holds degrees in biochemistry and statistics from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and works as a freelance translator.



Jennifer Tong graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Simon Fraser University in 2019. Before joining the Mood Disorders Centre, she worked in various administrative roles at BC Children’s Hospital, BC Cancer and the BC Centre for Disease Control. Her research focuses on the intersection of digital health and health care.



Originally from Vietnam, Thu (Rosie) Tran moved to Vancouver for her undergraduate studies, graduating from UBC in 2019. Prior to joining the Mood Disorders Centre, she was an elementary school special education assistant and an electroencephalogram neurotherapy technician. Her research interests include cultural considerations in mental health interventions and assessment.



What is your role at the Mood Disorders Centre? Can you share an unexpected aspect of your role that people might be surprised to learn about?

Tina: As a research coordinator for the depression research team, I manage a variety of research aspects, from patient recruitment to data administration. Coming from a background primarily in wet lab research, I have particularly enjoyed patient interaction. It has also been fun to create marketing materials for recruitment, allowing me to leverage marketing skills I developed in university.

Jennifer: I coordinate the Vancouver site for the national Optimized Predictive Treatment In Medications for Unipolar Major Depression (OPTIMUM-D) study for CAN-BIND. Our research focuses on studying biological markers that may help to predict treatment outcomes in those with clinical depression. It is surprising how much detail and organization are required to ensure clinical trials run smoothly, emphasizing patient safety. I utilize multiple planners and color coding to manage communication for each patient visit.

Rosie: I coordinate our global mental health research projects with our partners in China and Vietnam. Our research focuses on integrating evidence-based mental health care into primary care and community-based settings, as well as adaptation and implementation of mobile app-based interventions to promote mental well-being. One unexpected aspect of my role is how creative research can be! I get to showcase my creativity frequently when I am creating our study’s promotional materials.

What motivated you to pursue a career in mental health research?

Tina: My motivation stems from personal experiences, including volunteering for Kids Help Phone. Listening to people’s stories ignited my interest in mental health research, despite it not being my original career path. I am now involved in the Light and Ion Maintenance In Treatment of Depression (LIMIT-D) study, exploring long-term maintenance treatments for depression.

Jennifer: I am interested in how digital health may help inform or improve intersectional health care, including access to mental health care. This interest comes from previous work experiences at BC Cancer, where I saw firsthand the challenges patients faced accessing mental health services. Research can help us improve the overall patient experience, which I am excited to be a part of.

Rosie: Growing up in Vietnam and studying in Canada, I have witnessed the disparities in mental health care access for youth in low- and middle-income countries. I am driven to improve these experiences for children in need of mental health treatment, focusing on cultural considerations.

Where do you see the field of mental health research heading in the next decade, and what role do you hope to play in it?

Tina: I anticipate mental health research will further integrate technology like artificial intelligence (AI). Our lab has already been exploring this avenue, and I aim to continue supporting such endeavours.

Jennifer: Similarly, I see AI playing a significant role in determining optimal treatment plans based on various factors such as environment and biological markers. With increased data collection, navigating the legal and ethical implications will become crucial. I am interested to see how this evolves in the future.

Rosie: Collaboration between researchers and people with lived experiences of mental health, particularly among youth, will become more integral to mental health research. Our Youth Promotion of Resilience Involving Mental E-health (Y-PRIME) study reflects this approach by actively engaging our Vietnamese Youth Advisory Council to better understand the diverse sociocultural context and preferences of young people in Vietnam. I believe we will see a lot more participation from people with lived experiences directly influencing the way we research and improve mental health support.

How do you engage with the broader community to promote mental health awareness and reduce stigma?

Tina: Engagement with the broader community is crucial for promoting mental health awareness and reducing stigma. In addition to volunteering for Kids Help Phone, I manage the UBC Mood Disorders Centre’s social media profile, @ubcmood, where we promote relevant events and information. Through these efforts, I hope to contribute to a more open dialogue surrounding mental health.

Jennifer: Early intervention is key for mental health treatment, so I encourage those who suspect that they may have depression to talk to a health professional for more information. Outside of my role at the Mood Disorders Centre, I openly discuss my own mental health struggles and strategies for managing them in hopes of reducing stigma and creating a safe space for those around me.

Rosie: Through our Y-PRIME study, we facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges between Vietnamese and Canadian youth, fostering cultural understanding and support around mental health topics. I hope to create safe and welcoming opportunities where people with lived experience can be empowered to share their experiences and influence mental health research.

What personal practices or resources do you recommend for maintaining mental health and self-care?

Tina: Navigating the balance between my mental health and career demands is a continuous journey for me. Inspired by a friend who dedicates entire days to rest, I have learned that finding moments of respite from the hustle of daily life is crucial. I also recommend revisiting activities you enjoyed as a child and setting aside specific times for relaxation.

Jennifer: My approach to maintaining mental health involves scheduling time either alone or with family and friends to engage in enjoyable activities like walking or hiking. Traveling is another passion of mine; it offers a refreshing change of scenery and new perspectives. Japan and Switzerland are next on my travel list. Fitting in 15 to 60 minutes of high-intensity exercise three times per week has also proven effective for stress relief. For anyone seeking further information or help with mood disorders, I would suggest visiting the Mood Disorders Association of British Columbia website.

Rosie: It is very important to prioritize mental health. In my free time, I love connecting with family and friends over meals. These family mealtimes are not just about enjoying food but also about strengthening bonds and unwinding together. For young people looking for mental health support, Foundry BC offers excellent resources, including self-care kits and comprehensive information on various aspects of mental health.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a career in mental health research?

Tina: My advice to those considering a career in mental health research is to prioritize your own mental well-being first. Volunteering in mental health-related settings not only provides valuable insights but also allows you to learn more about the profession while giving back to the community.

Jennifer: I recommend focusing on areas with the greatest need for improved diagnosis and treatment options. This approach can help alleviate both the economic costs and time associated with mental health treatments, benefiting individuals and our health care system as a whole. Additionally, staying informed about technology innovations and acquiring coding skills can support your career growth in this field.

Rosie: Stay open to conversations! Mental health advocacy takes many forms, and you never know what opportunities may arise from the connections you make. Being receptive to dialogue can lead to unexpected avenues for growth and impact in mental health research.

Researchers at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health’s Mood Disorders Centre strive to improve the lives of people living with mood disorders through scientific research and innovative clinical care. Learn more about their work.

The OPTIMUM-D and LIMIT-D studies, led by DMCBH member Dr. Raymond Lam, are still recruiting participants. Find out how to get involved.