News / Calgary

Alberta depression project ignites new research questions

One Alberta patient said she thinks researchers should analyze indigenous perspectives in the health system

Sharon Unger has been part of a new depression project that aims to determine which questions are most crucial for researchers to study.

Courtesy / Sharon Unger

Sharon Unger has been part of a new depression project that aims to determine which questions are most crucial for researchers to study.

Sharon Unger says it took her nine years to “get her brains back,” after enduring two incidents of sexual abuse and hospital trauma for years.  

“We’re treating symptoms,” said Unger, who’s part of a new depression research project. “We’re not treating human beings.”

As part of the Depression Research Priority project, health care providers are gathering hundreds of questions submitted by patients and clinicians to eventually pick a top-10, providing them to researchers to study.

Spearheaded by Alberta Health Services and Alberta Innovates Health Solutions SPOR Support Unit, the project ensures research reflects patients’ needs and root outs questions that have already been studied, according to Ping Mason-Lai, Director of the Patient Engagement Platform. 

“Depression affects a lot of people, one in 10 Canadians,” Mason-Lai said. “It’s a priority for our mental health system.”

Unger, who said she was initially misdiagnosed and faced a lack of understanding from caregivers, thinks researchers should analyze indigenous peoples’ perspectives on wellness. 

“I was abused seriously,” Unger recalled. “We have a huge wealth of information from our first people of this land.

“We need to be looking at people from all directions. That includes spiritual, mental and social aspects.”

She said education and being part of traditional medical processes helped her heal. She said she has post traumatic stress disorder, but now knows how to better handle it. 

“I have not needed treatment for 15 years, and about nine years to get my brains back,” she said. “I’ve overcome stuff and, although I struggle a little bit, I’m very educated and aware to really understand how to deal with it when it’s happening.”

Mason-Lai said she expects to determine the top-10 questions by early 2017. If you’re interested in participating in the survey, visit surveys.aihealthsolutions.ca/snapwebhost/surveylogin.asp?k=146861027027.