This month's brainbuzz™ includes exciting news about CAMH's record value of CIHR award funding; engagement with First Nations communities to develop evidence and community-informed wellness strategies; and our rankings amongst Canada's top 40 research hospitals. Please reach out if you have any questions or feedback.
Record Value of CIHR Award Funding
CAMH is proud to announce that we have achieved a record value of award funding as part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Project Grant Fall 2022 competition, for a total of $6,683,377! Congratulations to our 11 grant awardees.
First Nations community engagement leads to the development of evidence and community-informed wellness strategies
Many existing programs designed to address mental health and substance use challenges in First Nations communities are not culturally safe, wholistic or responsive to community-specific needs. The First Nations Wellness Initiative (FNWI) is a collaborative model for developing community-driven, evidence-informed and community-based wellness strategies in First Nations communities.
Renee Linklater (left), Senior Director, Shkaabe Makwa; Samantha Wells (centre), Senior Director, Institute for Mental Health Policy Research (IMHPR) & Ningwakwe George (right), Research Coordinator.
Many existing programs designed to address mental health and substance use challenges in First Nations communities are not culturally safe, wholistic or responsive to community-specific needs. The First Nations Wellness Initiative (FNWI) is a collaborative model for developing community-driven, evidence-informed and community-based wellness strategies in First Nations communities. Led by researchers at the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research (IMHPR) and Shkaabe Makwa, the FNWI involves a research-to-action process, conducted in four phases:
A Community Advisory Circle is established in each community to ensure that the research represents the perspectives of community members and addresses the needs and concerns of the community. Through strong partnerships with two First Nations, the FNWI has involved working to understand and address impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as described in the perspectives highlighted below.
R. Linklater: This phase of the First Nations Wellness Initiative was carried out earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was vitally important that we convened the Community Advisory Circles and engaged with those with lived and living experiences so that we were kept aware of the issues and stressors that were unfolding in the community. This propelled us to shift some of our timelines and methodologies.
S. Wells: Close engagement with people with lived and living experiences is fundamental to the First Nations Wellness Initiative. We embrace this approach to ensure that all wellness initiatives are built around the lived and living perspectives of people who are facing mental health and/or substance use challenges. We are using participatory action research so that people with lived experiences are active participants in the research process rather than passive subjects.
N. George: It was crucial to the success of this project to hear directly from the people impacted by mental health, violence and substance use issues. Too often, they feel marginalized, judged and not heard. Many times, others speak for them. All the participants felt honoured that we were including their voices.
R. Linklater: Respectful engagement is the most important first step for inviting a community to participate in an initiative. We first engaged with the health staff to introduce the project and once it was deemed a benefit for the community, myself and Dr. Samantha Wells presented it to the Chief and Council and they proceeded to pass a Band Council Resolution to join the Initiative and strike a Community Advisory Circle to guide the work ahead.
S. Wells: This approach ensures that wellness initiatives are tailored to the needs and concerns of community members. Participants feel that their perspectives and experiences are important and valued. They feel empowered by being key actors in wellness strategy development and become champions in sharing their knowledge and experiences with others.
N. George: This project was able to gather rich data because the participants built up trust with the researcher and each other. It is important to note that we prioritized the participants’ well-being by moving at a pace that honoured and respected what was going on in their lives.
R. Linklater: Historically, research with Indigenous peoples and communities in Canada has tended to operate as a very insular, yet invasive procedure. Engagement and collaboration is an opportunity to establish a respectful relationship that is reciprocal and responsive to the needs brought forward by the community.
S. Wells: Mental health research can be significantly strengthened when it is informed by lived and living perspectives. Engagement can spur new ideas, inform research designs, bring an enriched interpretation of the data and help apply knowledge to practice and provide better care. Engagement and collaboration are also important for informing evaluation plans. Overall, research with engagement is a win-win for everyone.
N. George: Engagement and collaboration help to draw people out of their shells. People living with mental health, violence and substance issues have learned to put up walls to protect themselves, not realizing that those walls can keep people out – people who can help them to see the value in themselves.
First Nations Wellness Initiative research team at the National Indigenous Mental Wellness Summit on September 23, 2022. From left to right - Anika Altiman, Research Coordinator-Walpole Island First Nation, IMHPR; Ningwakwe George, Research Coordinator-Saugeen First Nation, IMHPR; and Ashley Cornect-Benoit - Manager, Research and Knowledge Mobilization, Shkaabe Makwa.
Why did you start partnering on this project?
Respondent 1: I found it interesting that CAMH was here and I wanted to learn more about what they had to offer. I have respect for the researcher, as she knew I overcame my own addictions and that I tried to help my daughter with hers. So when the researcher asked me to participate, I agreed.
Respondent 2: I felt that this project was very important for our community as it could bring us together to figure out ways to help our people begin to heal, get healthy and help our community acknowledge the difficult
issues that need to be addressed. I believe that only good can come from working together, sharing stories and ideas, and speaking about our pain and trauma in a safe environment.
Respondent 1: I like sharing my story for other people to hear and understand what I went through. I overcame all my demons. I liked talking about the pictures, it was a very interesting and enjoyable experience.
Respondent 2: The most memorable part of my experience was the love and trust I witnessed between so many people. I know it’s hard for most of us to trust others and share our stories but, during this project, we shared many heartbreaking experiences with the common goal of trying to address the tough issues so that we could help make changes in the future.
CAMH ranks among Canada's top three medium-sized research hospitals
On January 31, 2023, Research Infosource released its 2022 rankings (based on the 2020-21 fiscal year) for Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals.
CAMH has once again topped the list as the country’s leading mental health research hospital. During the 2020-21 fiscal year, Research Infosource reports that CAMH reached $79.7 million in research spending, a new record high and a 5.4 per cent increase over the prior year, reflecting the continued importance of mental health and addictions research to CAMH’s overall mandate. Looking forward, CAMH anticipates additional growth and productivity, with its research-related spending for 2021-22 recorded as $86.6 million.
In the 2022 rankings, CAMH maintained its position within its
sub-category of medium-sized hospitals at 3rd overall in ‘researcher intensity,’ the amount of research spending per researcher. CAMH also maintained its 2nd place position for ‘hospital intensity,’ which analyzes research spending as a percentage of total hospital spending.
Some of last year’s stand-out research stories included:
Check out the complete list of Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals in 2022.
Read how CAMH did in last year’s rankings.