CMH Initiative update: How we’re supporting mental health during COVID-19
Message from the Scientific Director, Dr. Samuel Weiss

Mental health challenges and problematic substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic are significant, national health topics for many Canadians during this unprecedented time. The recently announced $115-million investment in Canada’s rapid research response to COVID-19 includes funding for a CIHR COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative. Approximately $10 million out of this Government of Canada investment has been allocated to the CMH Initiative and we are mobilizing additional Institute strategic funds to further enhance a rapid knowledge-to-action strategy. Funds for this Initiative are not sourced from any cancelled, delayed or future CIHR funding competitions and this initiative does not impact CIHR’s open competition funding.

Rapid: summarize existing evidence. Near-term: develop and inform health systems response innovation

The CMH Initiative will provide urgent knowledge and evidence to support decision-making throughout the mental health and substance use responses to the pandemic, and is currently focused on rapid and near-term knowledge needs, which will be addressed through a series of funding opportunities:

  • First, projects funded through the Knowledge Synthesis: COVID-19 in Mental Health and Substance Use funding opportunity, are expected to be announced at the end of May and will rapidly synthesize current evidence on mental health services needs, delivery and guidelines, practice and related issues, placed in the COVID-19 context. We are pleased with how well-received this competition was by the research community and are committed to sharing the funded projects and the resulting knowledge syntheses broadly and as quickly as possible.
  • A second funding opportunity is currently in development and expected to launch in late-May. It will target near-term mental health systems response and innovation operating grants. More to come on this competition very soon!
  • A third funding opportunity, CRISM Urgent Guideline Activities Related to COVID-19, was also created to enable the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM) to undertake urgent activities related to COVID-19 and mental health and substance use guidelines.

To maximize the rapid sharing and uptake of knowledge generated through CMH-funded projects to audiences who need it most — including the research community, policy and decision makers, practitioners and the Canadian public — the Initiative will have a robust knowledge mobilization (KM) strategy. Expect to see more information on our KM activities in the coming weeks.

The CMH Initiative is made possible through the hard work of three working groups — comprising CIHR, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as partnered organizations and six CIHR Institutes — working collaboratively to set priorities and inform research, knowledge translation and knowledge synthesis. Additionally, an external Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) works to identify and advise on COVID-19 and mental health knowledge gaps, and how to access and mobilize the best evidence to effectively support mental health systems and services in Canada.

We are working hard to rapidly support the synthesis and creation of essential mental health and substance use knowledge as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic. I encourage you to stay informed of process, progress, news and updates related to the CMH Initiative through:

You are welcome to reach out to our dedicated CMH Initiative inbox ( to provide questions and comments relevant to the CMH Initiative.

Take care and stay safe,

Dr. Samuel Weiss
Scientific Director
CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction

Date modified: