About the Study

Adolescent Mental Heath: Canadian Psychiatric Risk and Outcome Study (PROCAN)

Most mental disorders begin in adolescence; however, there are many gaps in our understanding of youth mental health. Clinical and policy gaps arise from our current inability to predict, from amongst all youth who experience mild behavioural disturbances, who will go on to develop a mental illness, what that illness will be, and what can be done to change its course and prevent its worsening to a serious mental illness. There are also gaps in our understanding of how known risk factors set off neurobiological changes that may play a role in determining who will develop a serious mental illness.

The goals of our project are (i) to be able to identify youth at risk before they develop a serious mental illness so that intervention can begin as soon as possible and (ii) to understand the triggers of these mental illnesses. In this project, we will follow for up to 3 years 240 young people, ages 12-25, who are at different stages of risk for developing a serious mental illness.

The sample will include (a) healthy individuals, (b) individuals who have no symptoms but who have a first degree relative with a serious mental illness, (c) youth who are experiencing distress and may have mild symptoms of anxiety or depression, and (d) youth who are already demonstrating attenuated symptoms of serious mental illness such as bipolar disorder or psychosis. We will assess a wide range of clinical and psychosocial factors to determine which factors can be used to predict key outcomes, such as increasing disability, secondary substance misuse, not participating in education or employment, new self-harm and worsening physical health, as well as mental illness development. We will then perform brain scans and assess blood to see if we can identify any biological factors that may contribute to the development of mental illness in youth. It is possible that stress and early cannabis use, both major concerns for today’s youth, may play major roles in poor outcomes and later mental illness. However, there are many other factors involved and we will be exploring many other risk factors. Finally, using all our results, we will develop prediction models that will help determine how these risk factors interact in predicting negative outcomes for youth.

This study will be conducted at the University of Calgary. We also have participation from the University of Toronto by having a site at Sunnybrook Hospital.

Lead investigator – Dr Jean Addington

Calgary investigators

Dr Glenda MacQueen

Dr JianLi Wang

Dr Signe Bray

Dr Catherine Lebel

Dr Stefanie Hassel


Toronto investigators

Dr Sidney Kennedy

Dr Benjamin Goldstein