New Project: “User/Survivor Research Network in Canada: Feasibility Study”

This is a partnership project with the CIHR-funded Centre for the Study of Gender, Social Inequities and Mental Health (CGSM) at Simon Fraser University, and the Canadian Centre on Disability Studies (CCDS). A peer-reviewed seed grant was awarded by the CGSM Mental Health Reform and Policy Theme Group to Susan L. Hardie as the Principal Investigator with Jay Harrison as the Co-Investigator.

Research evidence and processes have historically excluded people labelled mentally ill in formulating and undertaking research. As a result there is a dearth of research and evidence, that the user/survivor community views as essential to fostering transformative system change towards inclusion, justice, health, recovery and well-being, that is yet to be comprehensively explored.

As user/survivors become more active in the production, and consumption, of research it is timely to investigate what might be needed to strengthen these capacities. This project aims to contribute to transformative system change based on evidence from user/survivor research, through strengthening the capacity for user/survivor research in Canada. For the purposes of this project user/survivor research refers to the range of ways in which user/survivors are involved in different types of research activities, including user/survivor-led research.

Historically, user/survivor researchers in Canada have worked in isolation, without the benefits of peer-to-peer connection. This project will explore the needs, benefits, challenges, and opportunities associated with developing a national network with, and for, user/survivor researchers and allies.

To learn more about the User/Survivor Research Network Feasibility Study please contact Jay Harrison at

Ongoing Project: “Enhancing Equity in Community-based Mental Health Care”

Mental health services in Canada can be understood in terms of three distinct periods: the rise of asylum care; the movement towards deinstitutionalization and finally, the balancing of community and hospital based care, with the latter period receiving the least scientific investigation. Research that explores the role of community-based mental health services, resources and supports in realizing equitable care for diverse populations is needed.

To work towards this broader objective we must first better understand how current underlying values, guiding approaches and models of care enhance or mitigate against equity. Thus, the proposed project aims to identify the contextual influences on Canadian mental health policies, focusing on underlying values and assumptions, which promote or undermine the uptake of mental health equity as a policy priority. To do this we will conduct a critical discourse analysis of mental health plans and other policy documents from British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec with the use of the Intersectionality Based Policy Analysis Framework. This work will lead to the development of a program of research that explores how mental health equity can be optimized through community-based mental health services, resources and supports.

Ongoing Project: “Collaborative Research in Self-Directed Care: Exploring the Impact of Bursary Programs”

Bursaries for mental health and wellness are a form of self-directed care, a model that involves giving service recipients control of financial resources along with decision-making authority regarding how funds will be spent in pursuing life goals.

The purpose of this project is to study the impact of participating in a bursary program on peoples’ reported self-confidence, sense of personal empowerment, perceived degree of choice, and progress toward recovery goal attainment. Participants will be members of two bursary programs funded by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA) that are designed to provide a temporary financial bridge that facilitates on-going and sustained access to leisure, health, and wellness pursuits in the community.

The project will create a research team with representation from multiple stakeholders (i.e., individuals with lived experience, service providers, scholars, agency administrators) that collaboratively plans and carries out a small qualitative study. This will involve qualitative interviews conducted by consumer interviewers who gather data from bursary participants with their informed consent. Study findings will be disseminated to a wide variety of audiences and further develop a research base for the application of self-directed care policy in Canada.

The project is a collaboration between the Centre, VCHA, and the Center on Mental Health Services Research and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Centre affiliates working on this project include Judith Cook, Marina Morrow, and Susan Hardie. Community co-investigators on the team include:

Regina Casey, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority
Simon Davis, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority
Maya Alonso, Open Door Group
Karen Douglas, Consumer
Katy Vinson, Canadian Mental Health Association Vancouver-Burnaby Branch
Sue Macdonald, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority

Ongoing Project: “Knowledge Exchange: Exploring Policy Tools for Enhancing Equity in Mental Health”

Building on current interests at the provincial and federal level in exploring and applying equity tools as a means of addressing social determinants of health we will explore how this is being applied to mental health policy.  Specifically we aim to explore how mental health policy and equity experts currently conceptualize and address social and structural inequities in the context of their work and to identify if and how gender and equity policy tools are currently being used with the aim of learning about what is needed for the effective integration of equity concerns into the policy process.

The team will convene two half day dialogues with national policy and equity experts, one in Ottawa and one in British Columbia, on the potential uses of Intersectionality-based Policy Analysis framework in the context of mental health policy development. Interviews with participants and findings from both provincial and national dialogues will be analyzed to determine current policy context and opportunities for the integration of equity-based analysis tools and strategies into the policy process. Finally an operating grant proposal will be developed in collaboration with interested participants including policy actors, advocates, practitioners and researchers to test the recommended equity policy tools/strategies in suggested areas of mental health policy.

Completed Project: “Designing a Policy Implementation Plan in Collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada Using an Intersectionality Framework”

The Mental Health Reform and Policy team started their first seed project August 1, 2010. The research summary is available here.

The overall purpose of this project is two-fold:  1) to identify, in close consultation with members of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), one priority area of mental health reform arising from the MHCC consultation process during phase two of the mental health strategy development; and 2) within the context of the priority area identified, explore how mental health policy can be implemented and evaluated using an intersectionality approach.

The objectivesare as follows:  a)  Identify, in consultation with the MHCC, a key area of priority to which an intersectionality approach can be developed, applied, and evaluated;  b) Coalesce an Evidence Panel with representation from multiple sectors (i.e., researchers, policy makers, service providers, individuals with lived experience) and from relevant strands (i.e., gender, race, mental health, substance use, etc.) who will collaborate to develop the methodology for the project based on Parken and Young’s Multi-Strand Approach; c) Undertake the Preparation Stage of the Multi-Strand Approach by exploring each strand’s perspective vis-a-vis the policy issue of interest; and, d) Develop a proposal for a research project applying Stages 1 through 4 (i.e., mapping, visioning, road testing, and monitoring and evaluation) of the Multi-Strand Approach to the policy issue of interest.

At the May 2011 Critical Inquiries Workshop the project team presented a project poster and handed out project pamphlets that contain the most up to date material currently available on this project.