September 15, 2016

The NorthBEAT Project


NorthBEAT (Barriers to Early Assessment and Treatment) is a collaborative of researchers and service providers across Northern Ontario with an interest in improving the system of care for youth with psychosis.

The NorthBEAT Project (2012-15) was a descriptive research project, funded by the Sick Kids Foundation in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), that explored the service needs of adolescents who experience psychosis in Northern Ontario.


Psychosis, caused by serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, can devastate youth and their families. Psychosis requires early intervention and minimal duration of untreated illness for the best outcomes. Early psychosis intervention (EPI) is an evidence-based intervention to treat young people in the early stages of psychotic illness. EPI is an innovative, complex model consisting of core components including early detection and access facilitation.

In Northern Ontario (a region with an expansive geography and many Indigenous communities), programs struggle to understand and meet service needs.  NorthBEAT is a 3-year, descriptive, mixed-methods research project which sought to understand the mental health service needs of youth who experience psychosis in Northern Ontario.

Research Question:

What are the perceived service needs of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth in Northern Ontario who experience first episode psychosis?


  • To understand how youth in Northern Ontario experience early psychosis and services for psychosis;
  • To understand what are the barriers to youth receiving appropriate EPI;
  • To examine Indigenous youth as a significant and vulnerable population in Northern Ontario.
Chiachen Cheng: The NorthBEAT Project 1

What We've Done

A mixed-method approach was adopted. Between 2013-15, qualitative interviews were conducted with youth who experience psychosis, their family caregivers and mental health service providers from across Northern Ontario. Quantitative, structured assessment interviews were also held with youth who were receiving services for psychosis. In 2015 the data were analyzed. End-of-project data validation and knowledge translation (KT) workshops were also held to validate project findings, create arts-based KT products, and identify KT strategies.

What We Learned

The qualitative interviews with the youth,  their family caregivers and mental health service providers revealed that while some youth  experience direct care pathways, many were convoluted. The themes that emerged from these interviews highlight important barriers and facilitators for  youth  accessing early intervention services, such as the importance of knowledge about psychosis.   

The structured assessments resulted in a snapshot of the functional status of a subset of youth receiving services for psychosis. These assessments also resulted in estimates of durations of untreated psychosis in Northern Ontario.

NorthBEAT's findings have been presented at several conferences and workshops. You can view posters and presentations on Slideshare.

If you're interested in more presentations, please contact us at:


Research Institution Project Page

Read more about the NorthBEAT Project.

NorthBEAT Project Summary

*COMING SOON!* Download a full summary of the NorthBEAT Project.

Next Steps

The next steps for NorthBEAT involve addressing some of the barriers revealed through this project.  Visit our main NorthBEAT page for more information on NorthBEAT's various initiatives.

Follow NorthBEAT on Twitter!

Stay up to date on project updates and general information about psychosis, youth mental health, and EPI services in Northern Ontario.