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By Costa Maragos Posted: October 31, 2017 4:00 p.m.

Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos, Professor of Psychology, has been recognized for bringing access to psychotherapy for people living in remote and rural locations.
Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos, Professor of Psychology, has been recognized for bringing access to psychotherapy for people living in remote and rural locations. U of R Photography

Dr. Heather Hadjistavropoulos, Professor in the Department of Psychology, has been named as one of 150 leading Canadians for Mental health by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). The award recognizes people who are changing the course of mental health.

As founder of the Online Therapy Unit at the University of Regina, Hadjistavropoulos was selected for the award for “leading the way in bringing publically funded, online cognitive behavioural therapy to Canadians” and helping “many who might not otherwise have access to psychotherapy, such as those living in remote and rural locations.”

To date, Hadjistavropoulos and her collaborators have worked with more than 3,000 residents of Saskatchewan from all parts of the province and trained more than 250 therapists (60 graduate students and 190 registered health-care professionals). The unit is now working with more than 1,000 Saskatchewan residents annually.

The Online Therapy Unit is now funded annually by Saskatchewan Health. The unit’s work has attracted the attention of Canada’s major health insurance providers. The Unit has been awarded two research contracts from Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada and Co-operators Group Limited to help pilot-test new online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy programs for them.

“I am honoured for this recognition, not just for myself but for our team. All this would not be possible without the staff and students who work in the Online Therapy Unit and support from the Psychology Department, the University of Regina, the community mental health clinics in Saskatchewan and ongoing financial support from the province of Saskatchewan and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research” says Hadjistavropoulos. “This recognition further confirms that our work in bringing mental health services to people, particularly those in rural and remote areas of our province, is making a positive difference.”

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health launched the Difference Makers campaign with presenting partner, Morneau Shepell.

Canadians were invited to nominate someone who has made a difference through research, philanthropy, advocacy, social change or inspiration. More than 3,700 people were nominated from across Canada.

Hadjistavropoulos was nominated by Dr. Richard MacLennan, head of the Psychology Department.

The 33 honourees from Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, received their awards at an event held in Calgary October 26, attended by CAMH national committee members Jim Treliving, Chairman and owner of Boston Pizza and Sandi Treliving, philanthropist and advocate for mental health. Sheldon Kennedy was a guest speaker at the event.

Hadjistavropoulos is in good company. Saskatchewan Senator Denise Batters, who graduated from the U of R with a Bachelor of Arts in 1991 also received the award. Senator Batters has become a passionate mental health advocate after losing her husband to suicide.