Susan and Poul Hansen
“We know the Poul Hansen Family Centre for Depression will give hope to those who may have lost it, by making rTMS and any integrated supporting treatment more accessible and readily available,” says Susan Hansen, shown here with Poul Hansen. (Photo: Visual Services,UHN)

The Hansen family had a vision for its $5-million gift to UHN's Centre for Mental Health (CMH) – a place to treat depression and mood disorders, support patients and families, and revitalize facilities and space.

The largest philanthropic donation the CMH has received made that vision a reality with the opening of the Poul Hansen Family Centre for Depression at Toronto Western Hospital.

"We were inspired to explore how we might contribute to the Centre for Mental Health by our daughter," Susan Hansen says. "She was helped immeasurably by the treatment she received at the rTMS clinic, and by all the associated caring professionals, especially Dr. Susan Abbey and Dr. Jonathan Downar."

The Hansens worked with the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation and staff at the CMH to develop a centre that will support patient education, family resources, increased clinical care, including Personal Care Coordinators or patient navigators, technicians and physician assistants to enhance the clinic capacity, along with revitalization of space and new facilities equipment.

The new Centre will merge the current rTMS (repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation) and Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology clinics, with its lead doctors being Dr. Downar and Dr. Roger McIntyre.

rTMS treatment is an up-and-coming treatment option for those with hard-to-treat depression and other mental health disorders. In addition to operating the rTMS Clinic, Dr. Downar and his team conduct research to try to discover ways to make rTMS treatment more accessible to patients.

In the Mood Disorders Psychopharmacology Clinic, Dr. McIntyre and his team focus on assessing and providing medication recommendations to those with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder.

Merging the clinics will aim to establish a one-stop shop by ensuring patients don't have to travel elsewhere in the hospital for certain depression services or appointments. Ideally, it will all be accessible within this new centre, helping patients better navigate their way through their journey of recovery, and eliminating the barrier of extra travel between hospitals some currently face. 

Goal is integrated care for mental health

"When we learned of their compassionate dedication to providing treatment to as many patients as possible, working creatively with whatever resources were at their disposal, we wanted to help," Susan Hansen says.

Dr. Downar, neuroscientist and psychiatrist at TW, says the kind of integrated mental health care the Hansen's daughter received should be more available to all patients. For too long, barriers such as wait-lists and accessibility have hindered mental health patients from receiving this integrated care easily.

"This person received great integrated care that made a dramatic improvement in her ability to function, so why can't everybody have that?" Dr. Downar says. "When you go to the cancer clinic, no one tells you that you have to get in three different five month-long lineups for your radiation, your chemo and your surgery.

"Ideally, there's one front desk and they just take you in and they try to put together a comprehensive treatment plan. We need that same approach here in mental health. And the new centre will aim to prove that it is possible for us to get there."

Dr. Downar says his hope in being part of UHN's CMH and the Poul Hansen Family Centre for Depression is to help pioneer an approach that will bring universal and integrated healthcare to Canadians that includes mental health care.

"We know the Poul Hansen Family Centre for Depression will give hope to those who may have lost it, by making rTMS and any integrated supporting treatment more accessible and readily available," Susan Hansen says.

"This journey has been a wonderfully collaborative one with all levels of the UHN family. We are proud to be a part of it." ​

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