Our department is home to researchers trained in the fields of psychiatry, psychology, anthropology, public health, and cognitive neuroscience, who apply wide-ranging expertise and diverse methodologies to the study of psychosocial factors in the etiology, course, and treatment of physical and mental illness. Situated in the heart of Montreal’s most ethnically and culturally diverse neighbourhood, the Jewish General Hospital has taken a leadership role in studying how a person’s values, beliefs, and behaviours influence symptom expression, diagnosis, help-seeking, and response to treatment. Researchers in our department employ a wide range of methodologies, both qualitative and quantitative, to study these complex issues.
There are 3 major domains of research in the department:
I. Cultural Psychiatry
Our department is world-renowned for its work on cultural influences on symptom expression, help-seeking, diagnosis, adherence to treatment, and response to health communications. Research centres on the social and cultural determinants of health, including stigma and discrimination, migration, and poverty. This work addresses issues related to vulnerable populations such as immigrants and refugees, aboriginal peoples, and ethnic and cultural minorities. An additional focus is the study of cultural diversity in mental health services and interventions, involving the development and evaluation of culturally-informed models of service, indigenous healing practices, and training health professionals to work effectively with ethnically and culturally diverse patient populations. Our researchers are at the forefront of the study of the effects of culture on the experience and expression of emotional distress, patterns of mental health service utilization among immigrants and native-born populations, and suicide prevention among aboriginal groups.
II. Mental Health and Medical Illness
Psychological distress is associated with increased morbidity and greater utilization of health care services in patients with physical illness, with concomitant increases in health care costs. The investigation of risk factors for psychological distress in medical patients, the identification of cultural variations in modes of expressing distress, and the development and evaluation of treatments for such distress, are important areas of research in our department. This research is translational by forming the basis for interventions to promote treatment adherence, better health outcomes, shorter hospital stays, and fewer readmissions. We also conduct research on patient information-seeking behaviour and decision making, patient responses to public health communications, and communication between patients and health care providers. The impact of chronic and life-threatening disease on patients and their families is another important focus for research. We work with patients suffering from many different illnesses, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and sleep orders. Women’s health issues are another important focus of research. Our work investigates mental health problems associated with infertility as well as during pregnancy and postpartum, screening and genetic testing for gynecological cancers, and sociocultural factors associated with decisions about breastfeeding.
III. Etiology and Treatment of Mental Disorders
Research in our department has focused on biological and psychosocial risk factors in the development of psychiatric disorders in adults and children, as well as personality traits that predict treatment outcome in depressed patients. We conduct research on the interaction of early adversity and genetic risk in predicting child psychopathology. Psychotherapy research looks at patient characteristics as well as aspects of treatment process that are associated with outcomes in patients with recurrent depression. The impact of long-term treatment on recurrent depression is also under study. The role of placebo effects in psychiatric treatment is another area of research, as is the use of attention training as a treatment for Tourette’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.