International Expert on the Impact of Culture on Mental Health joins CAMH

    October 10 is World Mental Health Day

    TORONTO, Oct. 9 /CNW/ - Isn't mental illness the same for people the
world over? Not at all. Appropriately, the Centre for Addiction and Mental
Health (CAMH) has chosen World Mental Health Day with its theme of The Impact
of Culture on Mental Health to proudly welcome the arrival of its newest
senior staff member, the world-renowned expert on Transcultural psychiatry Dr.
Kwame McKenzie.
    "My specific interest in coming to CAMH from the UK is in meeting the
challenges of a multi-cultural population," Dr. McKenzie said today. "With
Toronto soon to be over 50% non-Canadian born, mainstream mental health care
is increasingly becoming cross-cultural mental health care. We all need to be
capable of rising to the challenge."
    There is a growing literature that discrimination has a significant
impact on mental health. Those who have been victims of discrimination have
over twice the rate of depression and psychosis. They are more likely to
suffer from high blood pressure and have a shorter life expectancy.
    "CAMH is extremely fortunate to have attracted Dr. McKenzie, whose
international success as a research scientist, public policy advisor, clinical
psychiatrist, academic and BBC media commentator have combined to advance the
increasingly important field of cross-cultural mental health. His specialized
expertise will be extremely beneficial in helping us address the complex needs
of the diverse community here," said CAMH President and CEO Paul Garfinkel
    Dr. McKenzie named a number of specific challenges in the field, starting
with the differences in the suicide rates across minority groups.
    "For instance, women from the South Asians diaspora are at high risk of
suicide-- but are less likely to have the common warning signs-- and so
suicide prevention is more difficult," he said. "In the UK I developed a
program of research to help determine what could be done to decrease the rates
of suicide in this group."
    Effective treatment for illnesses like schizophrenia is another
cross-cultural issue of concern to Dr. McKenzie. "Recent research has shown
that using approaches like 'talk therapy' alongside drug treatment for those
suffering from schizophrenia does not work as well in ethnic minorities as it
does in people who are white. No-one knows why, but we have to know if we are
to offer equitable care."
    Medication is another challenge: the rates of side-effects are different
for different ethnic groups. "For instance, African and Caribbean groups are
more likely to report serious side effects from antipsychotic medication, and
those of East Asian origin more likely to report side effects from
anti-depressants," Dr. McKenzie explained.
    The field of study that looks at the genetics involved in drug action and
the way people from different ethnic groups' clear drugs from their bodies is
called ethno-psycho-pharmacology. "If you can understand the differences, then
you can help clinicians get the right dose for the right patient, decrease the
level of side effects and improve clinical outcomes."
    Some ethnic minority groups find it difficult to access treatment
services like CAMH. "Ethnic differences in pathways to care reflect in part a
group's cultural ideas about what causes an illness and what should be done
about it," Dr. McKenzie explains.  "If we understand the cultural impacts on
seeking help, we can offer appropriate interventions."
    "I am excited to be at CAMH, where I look forward to the opportunity to
use my research, the policy initiatives which flow from it and my experience
in direct clinical care-all under the one roof -- to help improve mental
health services for minority ethnic groups."

    The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is Canada's leading
addiction and mental health teaching hospital. Integrating clinical care,
scientific research, education, policy development and health promotion, CAMH
transforms the lives of people impacted by mental health and addiction issues.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange interviews please contact Michael
Torres, Media Relations, CAMH at (416) 595-6015

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