Patients + Research is a platform for patients to discuss their relationship and experience with the research that leads to new cures, cares and treatments. Ontario’s 24 research hospitals are committed to driving best practices for patient co-design of health research. When patients are at the table, the Ontario’s health research enterprise does a better job at making Ontario healthier, wealthier and smarter.
Our first Patients + Research voice belongs to Gail Bellissimo. Diagnosed with depression in the in the early 2000’s, Gail shares her insights on how health research makes a difference to her, and how she can make a difference for others. Thank you, Gail, for adding your voice to the conversation.
- Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your health story?
I’ve lived with depression most of my life, although it wasn’t formally diagnosed until the early 2000s. At times in my life, it was truly debilitating. Depression, for me, was a physical illness. I experienced very real, gut wrenching pain, accompanied by a crushing weight that could bring me to my knees. My body ached. I sobbed without warning. I was physically exhausted and emotionally numb. My only option was seclusion. Depression encased me in a dark, hopeless state of indifference. I had little energy or desire to look for further treatment.
- Why does health research matter to you?
Health research is a crucial part of excellent health care in my opinion.
It was health research, done right here in Ontario, that ultimately helped me escape from the darkness. I found and participated in a clinical trial at CAMH using Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Therapy (rTMS). rTMS created a completely new path allowing me to begin my rehabilitation back to health, versus a decade and a half of medications and the associated side effects that were often dead ends.
With health research, possibility can become reality. For me the advances in brain research are incredible and provide promise for newer, faster & less invasive treatments. I want people to know that health research is key to better health.
- How does health research contribute to a healthier Ontario?
Health research is the underpinning of the entire health care system. Quite simply, without it there wouldn’t be any new health treatments. It is necessary for the evolution of health care and medicine.
In my view, health research is not as prominent as it should be. From personal experience, I know the difference between a traditional hospital and a research hospital.
A healthier Ontario is a result of more patients having access to new treatments that are more effective, that are safer and are offered in a timely way.
- How can the patient voice support, improve or empower health research?
There are many myths about health research, especially in the area of mental health. Some are hesitant to be involved in research. I believe that when people hear or see the stories and are educated by people’s experience, it reduces fear.
The patient’s voice acts as a catalyst for knowledge translation and information exchange between science and the general public. Patients can effectively explain the impact of research, new discoveries and how it is enriching, renewing and reconnecting people to health and a better quality of life. The patient voice is a gateway of hope.
I believe more information will empower people to seek help or other treatment options when they didn’t think they existed.