Published on February 1st, 2018 | from CAMH

The road to discovery and innovation

By Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, Physician-in-Chief and Clinician Scientist at CAMH

CAMH was recently entrusted with a $100-million gift, the largest ever philanthropic donation to mental health in Canada. A gift of this size to mental health research is a tremendous honour, carrying with it the lightness of gratitude and pride, as well as the weight of responsibility to maximize the gift’s enduring impact.

Why research? Because of people like Tom Churchill. Since Tom was a teenager, depression has been his steadfast – and unwelcomed – companion. Only recently, at the age of 65, has he been able to live a healthier life, thanks to clinical research at CAMH.

“I’m a person whose story could easily have been tragic, whose life could easily have been much shorter,” Tom admits. “Clinical research into mental health changed my life.”

The goal of the Discovery Fund

Philanthropy is not meant to address the access and care gaps that fall in the domain of publicly funded services. It is hoped ongoing efforts toward stigma reduction will inspire the same trust among levels of government, and attract new investments in high quality services and supports.

This Discovery Fund is aimed at igniting discovery and innovation, and improving outcomes for people with mental illness, now and in the future. The Discovery Fund has so far invested in three main areas: people, ideas, and a discovery platform.


We are investing in attracting and retaining superb graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and early and mid-career scientists and clinician scientists, supporting their training and professional development. We cherish inclusion and diversity, and these core values will be amply reflected among those we train and support.


Science and high-risk, high-reward ideas are supported by seed funds that encourage collaboration across disciplines and with other organizations to help create a broad movement toward a better future for mental health. Seed funds support all areas of enquiry, from basic science to brain and behavioural interventions and health services research, to make the mental health system better for everyone. They help us set in motion and accelerate platforms of convergence to improve the understanding, prevention and treatment of mental disorders. They incubate new treatments and models of care, such as the brain stimulation technology that helped Tom Churchill, bringing discoveries to those that need them most.

A discovery platform

Through our discovery platform, we will ensure the people we serve are engaged as partners in new knowledge creation, participating actively in research to advance care. Our discovery platform will also support clinical and research data integration and analytics, leveraging large data sets to answer questions about disease trajectories, our diagnostic models and opportunities for prevention and early intervention.

What’s next

We have a lot of work ahead of us.

We need to better understand how the brain’s connections to our biological and social environment may lead to mental disorders. Working closely with clinicians, researchers and people with lived experience, we also need to develop innovative service models and cross-sectoral collaborations to improve care and outcomes for people of all ages experiencing mental illness.

As we embark in this exciting adventure, we will consult with leading scientists and other thought leaders, locally, nationally and internationally, to identify additional areas in which we need to grow in support of our cause. We will explore opportunities for greater collaboration with other organizations, and invest in new conceptual frameworks that embrace the complexity of mental disorders. In these ways, we will ensure we are steering a new beginning in mental health, toward a future full of opportunity and promise.

Canadians are counting on us to create that new beginning through clinical research – people like Tom, his family and his friends. Through the Discovery Fund, we will deliver.

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