Engaging community to tackle poverty and mental illness
London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News
Community members, stakeholders and experts were brought together Monday (Oct. 24) to talk about how to tackle poverty and mental illness. Not only were personal experiences and concerns raised, but the second phase of the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA2) was launched.
Rather than taking a solely scientific approach to the study, a more participatory approach towards research is being taken.
“Bringing everyone together to identify the challenges invests all of us in finding the solutions,” said Dr. Cheryl Forchuk. “We share the same goal, but we bring unique backgrounds, skills and experiences to help us develop approaches that work.”
Forchuk is a researcher and associate director with the Lawson Health Research Institute. Through a five-year grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, she and other researchers hope to not only better understand the relationship between poverty and mental illness, but how marginalization and social disadvantage can be overcome by psychiatric survivors while influencing policy change.
The first phase, or project, was on housing and mental health.
Through community engagement Forchuk said she hopes a couple things come to light.
“We are hoping to identify issues, but with those issues we want to look at some community-based solutions and policy changes that could help to address it,” she said. “At the end of the day, if we only understand the issue, but don’t understand the solutions, we haven’t really gotten very far.”
As part of the announcement, four people with lived experience spoke on the subject. Betty Edwards, a community leader with CURA2 said it’s important to involve the community in the process. She spoke on the consumer experience with the system.
“Since this project is geared towards inclusion for people who have experienced mental illness, it is so important that we are included as co-leaders in this research process,” she said.
Edwards not only spoke on the program, but how she dealt with poverty and a mental illness.
She was joined by Cathie Gauthier, who spoke from her experience of having a son with mental health issues; Mike Godin, who is a care provider; and Stewart Perry who spoke on his research experiences.
Forchuk added adding a human face to the issue is important to removing barriers stigmas add to mental illnesses.
“We know from literature that people with mental illness are the most stigmatized group in society,” she said, adding there’s a huge problem with public perception. “In many ways it’s OK to stigmatize this group, things that would not be socially acceptable about any other group.
“There are things that we accept and we consider socially acceptable, that we would never touch with any other group. We would recognize that would be very inappropriate.”
She added knowing someone with a mental illness helps remove those stigmas.
While Forchuk said to completely change public perception would be a huge task, she added some of it may have to be side-stepped by going after policy change on things like employment, social assistance and housing to help those in need.