Projects

New Project: Using arts-based research methods and mentorship between older and younger women to make meaning of the recovery journey including met and unmet housing needs – A southern, metropolitan replication of a northern, small city-based project

The significance of peer-to-peer relationships for individuals diagnosed with severe, persistent mental illness in terms of self-esteem, self-efficacy, social support, and spiritual well-being, as well as developing social skills of teamwork, accessing resources, public speaking, and meaning making about recovery, is known. While evidence shows that making-meaning of mental health within peer relationships is important and emphasized for women in recovery, little work has been conducted on the value of peer mentorship between younger and older women. This project, replicating a project underway in a small city in northern BC, will involve 3 to 5 younger women (19 to 30 years old) and 3 to 5 older women (50 or older) living with mental illness in a large southern BC metropolitan centre. Participants will meet for three sessions of art-making, movement, journalling and discussion. It is expected that the women who participate will experience a range and intersection of social inequities with respect to accessing housing, income, services, etc. The arts-based data collection and mentoring process will seek to give voice to these inequities, how they are experienced and what impact participants perceive these have. These data should facilitate a better understanding of participants’ lived experiences across multiple inequities. By introducing younger/older dyad/mentoring, we hope further understanding about the recovery process, utilizing arts-based approaches, will be revealed. Finally, this replication permits analyses of similarities and dissonance, between northern and southern regions as well as between a smaller town setting and a larger metropolis that may impact future policy/service directions.

Ongoing Project: Using arts-based research methods and mentorship between older and younger women to make meaning of the recovery journey including met and unmet housing needs

The literature makes clear the significance of peer-peer relationships for individuals diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness in terms of self-esteem, self-efficacy, social support, and spiritual well-being (Fukui, Davidson, Holter, & Rapp, 2010), as well as developing social skills of teamwork, accessing resources, public speaking, and meaning making about recovery (Kidd et al., 2011; Silver, Bricker, Schuster, Pancoe, & Pesta, 2011). While evidence has been found that making-meaning of mental health within peer relationships is especially important and emphasized for women in recovery, little work has been conducted on the value of peer mentorship between younger and older women in making meaning of recovery. This work proposes to add the dimension of mentorship between younger and older peers to the literature. We specifically build upon two other research projects conducted at the CGSM: 1. the scoping review conducted by Dr. Marina Morrow and colleagues; and 2. a multi-site Canadian research project that used arts-based research methods to study the recover experiences of racialized women, older women, and young women. Margolin et. al. (2013, submitted) found that arts methods can assist participants to articulate insights about the barriers and resilience-promoting factors at play, both personal and structural, in women’s experiences of recovery from mental illness that more traditional interview methods miss. Additionally, it was found that human developmental stages can impact women’s recovery journeys. This project will involve 3 to 5 younger women (between 19 and 30 years of age) and 3 to 5 older women (50 years of age or older) living with a mental illness in an urban centre in northern British Columbia. Participants will meet for three sessions of art-making, movement, journalling and discussion. It is expected that, in large part, the women who participate will experience a range and intersection of social inequities with respect to accessing adequate housing, income, services, etc. The arts based data collection and mentoring process will seek to give voice to these inequities, how they are experienced and what impact participants perceive these have. Demographic and related information will also be collected via a brief demographic questionnaire. As a totality, these data will facilitate a better understanding of the lived experiences of participants across a range of inequities. We hope that by introducing a younger/older dyad/mentoring component, further understanding about the recovery process in the context of utilizing arts-based approaches will be revealed.

Ongoing Project: “Mothering, Mental Health and Homelessness: Developing an Informed Research Strategy for Advancing Knowledge”

While a growing research agenda has focused on the mental health and service needs of homelessness populations, much less attention has been paid to homeless families. Given that families are currently the fastest growing segment of the homeless population in North America and that the majority of homeless families are headed by single mothers of minor-aged children, this lack of research attention has contributed to sparse and limited data surrounding homeless mothers. This project seeks to develop an informed and strategic research plan of inquiry surrounding women with mental health problems who are parenting in a context of housing instability. Specifically, the project seeks to convene a one-day forum of diverse and knowledgeable service providers, policy makers, persons with lived experience, and researchers to systematically identify and prioritize the key issues and questions surrounding the intersections of mothering, mental health, and family homelessness. By engaging and bringing together a highly informed group of stakeholders, we seek to solicit perspectives and priorities, catalyze partnerships, and develop a research strategy that will pursue the advancement of knowledge surrounding how parenting is related to the challenges, resources, service needs and recovery of mothers at risk for homelessness and living with mental illness. The resulting research strategy will lay the foundation for an operating grant proposal that will seek to improve the data upon which future policy and programmatic practice decisions may be based.

Completed Project: “Gender, Recovery, and Housing: A Consultation with Service Providers in Multiple Communities”

This study was undertaken to examine the role of gender as it relates to access to housing among individuals with severe mental illness (SMI) in Canada. Using an exploratory, qualitative approach, Canadian housing expert perspectives were sought regarding the role of gender and associated intersections (e.g., ethnicity) in pathways to housing access and housing needs for individuals with SMI. A total of 29 housing experts participated in interviews with representation of perspectives from every Canadian geographic region, hospital and community care sectors, and urban and rural settings. Participants across geographic contexts described a lack of shelter facilities for women leading to a reliance on exploitative circumstances. Other findings included a compounding of discrimination for ethnic minority women, the unique resource problems faced in rural contexts, and the difficulties that attend access to shelter and housing for parents with SMI attempting to retain custody of their children. These findings suggest that, along with a generally poor availability of housing stock for individuals with SMI, access problems are compounded by a lack of attention to the unique needs and illness trajectories that attend gender.

Read all about the study in BMJ-Open here “The Role of Gender in Housing for Individuals with Severe Mental Illness: A Qualitative Study of the Canadian Service Context“.

Original summary of the proposed project:

Research into the ways in which gender intersects with housing and community participation for persons with severe mental illness is limited. Given the importance of these factors as social determinants of health there is a need to better articulate the barriers and opportunities associated with community integration in a manner that addresses the impacts of gender.

In this study a community consultation model will be used to capture the perspectives of housing and community mental health experts regarding how gender and other intersecting factors such as ethnicity and sexual identity impact the community integration of individuals with severe mental illness.

Key informant providers will be identified from one large city and one smaller city or town in each Canadian province to inquire, via phone interview, about their perspectives on these issues. The goal is to use this study to integrate a service provider perspective with the findings from the Centre’s recent literature review and an ongoing project (see below) by this theme group that is collecting lived experience perspectives.

This work will contribute to the establishment of a program of research that will provide evidence to inform the development of service and policy strategies that more effectively support the community participation of persons with mental illness in a manner sensitive and responsive to gender-specific factors.

Completed Project: “Using art-based research to create research spaces that encourage meaningful dialogue about gender, social inequity, recovery and mental illness”

Professional views tend to be privileged in discussions about recovery. It is largely professionals who frame research questions, and are bound by research procedures and standards. The outcome is that research about recovery includes people with lived experience of mental health issues in largely predetermined ways and is bound to explore experiences in ways that are explicit. This is particularly problematic when the research concerns those whose lived experience is characterized by social inequities and marginalization; research designs and strategies to identify, elicit and truly hear their voices  are sadly lacking. This research study uses art-based research with the aim of eliciting these voices, and further developing relationships among researchers, practitioners, and women living with mental illnesses to deepen to our understanding of recovery and mental illness.

The research was implemented at 3 sites; a small city in southeastern Ontario, a large metropolitan centre in central Ontario and a small city in northern British Columbia. Participation varied across sites from 4 to 7 women.  A different creative, artistic experience was used at each site (eg. collage, visual arts, letter writing, body movement), with the artistic activities spanning over several sessions led by a facilitator with lived experience and artistic expertise. The women created art to respond to the question:  “What are the important moments, people, places, events, activities, and milestones in your recovery?”  In addition, each site focused on the recovery experiences of a distinct population of women including: racialized women, older women with long histories of mental illness and young women receiving early intervention for psychosis services.   Established qualitative analysis methods were used at each site, followed by a cross- site analysis. The findings presented here briefly summarize common themes emerging across the three sites.

Common and interconnected themes related to the experience of recovery included the following:  reconciling changes in personal identity to experience the self as worthy and accomplished; experiences related to compromised control and power emerging from an array of intersecting factors including gender, race and sexuality; the importance of relationships and the central role of women in caring and family, and; finding a place in the world and fulfilling meaningful roles.  Recovery experiences were interpreted as dynamic, changing over time in relation to 1) historical shifts in how recovery is understood and institutionalized within the broader community and health systems, and 2) a life course perspective that recognizes development shifts in the processing of personal experiences with mental illness and recovery.

At the May 2011 Critical Inquiries Workshop the project team presented a project poster and handed out project pamphlets that contain materials from earlier in the project.