Over the course of the pandemic, more young people than ever have been seeking mental health support, which has been especially challenging with restrictions changing the ways services are accessed.

Throughout the last year many organizations have found ways to adapt and are looking towards new models of service in the future. An important part of doing this successfully is making sure programs, services and research projects are designed and evaluated with the needs of young people and families in mind.

A new project supported by the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Special COVID-19 Strategic Investment Fund is looking to do just this. The funds have been used to created two panels—a Youth Research Advisory Panel and a Family Research Advisory Panel—which are made up of youth and family across the province with lived experience of mental health and substance use.

DMCBH members Drs. Erin Michalak and Fidel Vila-Rodriguez are co-leads of the project, alongside 16 other faculty members that span across UBC, BC Children’s Hospital, Foundry and B.C. Health Authorities.

Dr. Michalak says throughout the pandemic funding opportunities for mental health research have come up fast and furious, but this can sometimes mean knowledge gaps and research priorities aren’t being properly identified.

“Authentic engagement with knowledge users and people with lived experience in research is extremely challenging as mental health research is evolving so quickly and yet effective engagement with these groups is more important than ever,” she says. “We hope these panels will provide an innovative way to support genuine patient-oriented research.”

The advisory panel works together to guide and translate research on youth mental health and substance use, by representing the voice of families and youth who have experienced this firsthand. In this way, they play an important role in ensuring researchers are asking the right questions and approaching these issues in a way that matters to people living with mental health and substance use challenges.

“This initiative gives us the opportunity to weave the voices of young people and families into the fabric of our research in the Faculty of Medicine,” says Dr. Michalak. “It’s a unique resource available to support our faculty which holds the potential to help us improve the quality and relevance of our science.”

To connect with these panels, please contact Skye Barbic (principal investigator) at skye.barbic@ubc.ca or Erin Klein (project manager) at erink01@mail.ubc.ca