Mental health info bank based on emergency room arrivals a world first

Signature information bank launched today includes medical and psychosocial data, plus human biological material

MONTREAL, June 11, 2013 /CNW Telbec/ - The Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal Research Centre is proud to officially announce the start-up of the Signature information bank, which collects medical and psychosocial data as well as information on human biological material. This innovative project, the outcome of collaboration between research and clinical teams, and made possible with a $1 million donation from the Bell Let's Talk mental health initiative, is intended first and foremost to advance research in the field of mental health, and will help to supply some of the data in real time to hospital teams treating patients - the first system in the world to do so.

This initiative involves the development of a centre of excellence for applied clinical research in mental health. By supplying biological samples and answering 168 questions, users will provide their clinical and psychosocial signatures, an invaluable contribution to advancing research and improving quality of care. Over 120 users have participated since the start of the project, which represents more than 25,000 pieces of psychosocial and medical data, and over 2,400 biospecimens. "In creating this type of data bank, the Research Centre of the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal is confirming its leadership status and serving as a catalyst to revolutionize the field of mental health research," says the Institute's executive director, Denis Fortin. In all, over 80 researchers, clinicians and collaborators have contributed toward assembling the project and 24 psychiatrists have agreed to supply the required medical data and receive the results for their patients on an iPad.

"Bell is proud to take part in such leading-edge innovation at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal," says Nicolas Poitras, Vice-President, Bell Residential Services. "We are impressed by the creativity of the research and the enormous potential the Signature information bank has to lead ground-breaking research that will improve training, education and access to care for those affected by mental illness."

After four years of consultation, design and planning, the first participant was recruited in an emergency department on November 27, 2012, as part of a pilot project. "Contrary to what we expected, the patients were very cooperative, which enabled us to obtain 60% participation," says Dr. Marc Sasseville, chief of emergency medicine and psychiatry. Participation involves patients supplying biological samples and completing psychosocial questionnaires on an iPad. Part of the data is returned to the attending psychiatrist and the complete information will be made accessible anonymously to researchers for analysis and study.

Why Signature?
During the project, four signatures are collected at critical moments in participants' treatment path: during their admission to the emergency department, at the end of their hospitalization, during their first appointment at an outpatient clinic, and at the end of their treatment. With the samples provided by the patients, the information bank will enable researchers to analyze some 20 biological markers, including infectious, toxicological and genetic biomarkers.

Initially financed by the Institute, its Research Centre and Foundation, the Signature information bank is the only study that collects data from users as soon as they enter the emergency room. "We wanted to bridge the gap between research and clinical applications. This innovative project, the only one of its kind in the world, shows how the medical and scientific communities can unite to better understand the causes of mental illnesses and provide better treatment," says Research Centre director, Sonia Lupien. The project is intended to cover its costs over the medium term through fees paid by researchers to access the data and biological specimens.

"The start-up of the Signature data bank by an affiliated university institute is great news for several reasons. By collecting all these data, Signature will help the Institute's researcher groups coordinate with its partners, and will greatly enhance the originality and innovative aspects of the research projects for our students and researchers. And it will also serve as a springboard for new and fruitful international collaborations," said Daniel Bourbonnais, assistant dean for research and scientific innovation in the Faculty of Medicine at the Université de Montréal. "We can only welcome this great news that reflects credit on the entire scientific community in Montréal."

For more information on Signature, please visit

Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal
The Institute provides specialized and ultra-specialized mental health services. As a leader in its field, it develops new knowledge through research, teaching and clinical assessments. The Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal is a member of the major Université de Montréal network for excellence in healthcare

Centre de recherche de l'Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal
As an affiliate of the Université de Montréal, the Research Centre is recognized by the Fonds de recherche du Québec-Santé. With its highly advanced studies, it is one of the most important research units on human mental health in Canada's Francophone community.

About Bell Let's Talk
Bell Let's Talk is a national charitable initiative to promote Canadian mental health, based on four action pillars: Anti-stigma, care and access, research, and workplace leadership. Since the launch of Bell Let's Talk in 2010, Bell has committed more than $62 million to the cause. To learn more, please visit Headquartered in Montréal since 1880, Bell is Canada's largest communications company.

SOURCE: Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal

For further information:

Laurence Robichaud
Information Officer - Media Relations
Department of Communications - Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal
Telephone: 514-251-4000, extension 2986 - Mobile: 514-235-4036

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Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal

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