Mental Health & Substance Use

Our research

Admin leads: William Small and Julian Somers

Mental health and substance use are two of the most urgent problems facing society today. Good mental health is foundational, and substance misuse can be fatal.

The scope of our challenge area is large and complex; factors such as changing substance legislation, increasing homelessness, corporate influence, and the long-term repercussions of colonization all play a role, amongst other considerations. However, it is also one of the most positive challenges to undertake, with the potential to see real impact and improvement over a short span of time. We study the whole-life impact of mental health and substance use (MH&SU), from pre-birth to the end of life, with a multidisciplinary approach that allows us to address the issues at hand on a variety of levels—from genetic predisposition, to the relationship between mental health conditions and homelessness, to shaping policy and prevention strategies. By working together, we are able to provide a comprehensive response to the mental health and addiction challenges facing vulnerable communities, and make a noticeable impact on real lives.

Working together, we achieve more than our primary goal of creating health efficacy for vulnerable people; we also create a template for interdisciplinary research that can inform the study of other large-scale challenges.



  • Kiffer Card The Social Determinants of Infectious Disease; The Health Effects of Loneliness, Social Isolation, and Social Disconnection; Climate Related Ecological Distress; Recreational and Therapeutic Use of Psychoactive and Psychedelic Substances; The Socio-Political Determinants of Health and Health Inequities; Motivated Social Cognition and Behaviour; Stigmatized Behaviour; Health and Social Policy; Implementation Science and Knowledge Mobilization
  • Kanna Hayashi Epidemiology, community-based research, public health and human rights, substance use, and health services for drug-using populations
  • Frank Lee Pharmacology, pathogenesis & Parkinson’s disease, molecular neurobiology, schizophrenia
  • Lawrence McCandless Biostatistics, epidemiology and environmental health
  • Hasina Samji Epidemiology, biostatistics, infectious diseases, implementation science methods, marginalized populations, health services provision, global health, health innovation
  • William Small Ethno-spatial epidemiological methods, illicit drug use, HIV prevention
  • Julian M. Somers Clinical psychology, substance use & mental health, primary health care reform, homelessness
  • Kimberly Thomson Children's health policy, child and youth mental health, social-emotional development, life course epidemiology, developmental trajectories, intergenerational mental health, social determinants of health, population and public health, prevention and health promotion, evaluation, longitudinal studies, intergenerational cohort studies


Our partners

Recent theses

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