U of S alumna looks to revolutionize the way we talk about mental health.

Having been a physician in Saskatoon for thirty years, Dr. DeeDee Maltman (MD '85) has seen firsthand the increase in the rate of mental health issues.

Following the tragic death of two friends from mental illness in 2013, Dr. Maltman knew it was time to re-examine the way we talk about mental health.

Having completed a fellowship program in integrative medicine in 2012, Maltman was prepared to seek out new treatment options for patients. While she is quick to credit traditional medicine as a great model for assessing chronic illness, Maltman is well aware of the need for change in today's health care system.

Examining many internal and external factors that could be contributing to mental illness, integrative medicine examines the whole person, ‘the mind, body and spirit' and examines patients at microbial, chemical, gut and social levels to detect deficiencies that could connect the mind and body.

She knew that if should could combine her knowledge of integrative medicine with the traditional models she had practiced throughout her career it would have a huge impact on the treatment of mental health patients.

"My role in integrative medicine goes beyond the biomedical model," she says. "I want to look at the way multiple facets such as diet, lifestyle and surroundings play a role in affecting one's mental state."

She adds, "Looking at mental illness through the lens of integrative medicine, offers patients a more complete and upstream approach to treatment."

It is through this way of thinking that Maltman's idea for the Neural Health Project evolved.

The Neural Health Project will offer patients suffering from mental illness an integrated approach to treatment.

"Because mental illness affects multiple channels, there are many things that need to align in order to help those suffering," says Maltman.

The project will bring together a team of interdisciplinary researchers that will work collectively to incorporate integrative methods to assess an individual's treatment needs. Thanks to a successful fundraiser in July 2015, their study is expected to launch before the end of 2015.

While it was obvious that funds needed to be raised, Maltman knew that it needed to be more than just a one-time donation.

With the help of family friend and NHL coach, Mike Babcock, Maltman organized a $1000 a plate dinner that took place on July 24, 2015 to raise funds for the project.

Called "One Voice", the event featured appearances by mental health advocates Michael Landsberg and Clara Hughes and featured a crowd of 560, ranging from sport celebrities to musical stars and many Saskatoon locals.

"We knew we aimed high," says Maltman. "Our goal was to raise $1 million, thinking we would get there eventually, but we have been overwhelmed with the support we have received." The project has both met and exceeded their goal, and donations are continuing to come in.

The Neural Health Project will find its home at the University of Saskatchewan, in the College of Medicine's Department of Community Health and Epidemiology. Under Maltman's direction, it is hoped that this research will shift people's perceptions and help shed the stigma associated with mental health.

Maltman also hopes that this project will be seen as a catalyst for change in the healthcare system. "This approach," she says, "is not about eliminating medication, but of bringing in new ideas that can work in conjunction with old models."

She adds, "This will be an ongoing research project, that will require ongoing funding. We've only just begun."

For more information about the Neural Health project, visit: http://www.theneuralhealthproject.com/

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