Talk of the Town: Empowering Communities to Support Youth Mental Health and Wellness
There has been a lot of discussion of youth mental health in the media recently. That’s a good thing, but according to the School of Pharmacy’s Dr. Lisa Bishop, sometimes the move from talk to action is challenging. One way to help promote positive outcomes is to actively engage communities in research, from the earliest stages of a project.
Using a community-based participatory research model, Dr. Bishop and her research partner, Dr. Stephen Darcy, of the Faculty of Medicine, have developed a sustained partnership with a local community board to conduct exploratory research around youth mental health and wellness within a small urban community in the province (in order to respect the privacy of participants, the name and location of the community is not emphasized when speaking publicly about the collaboration.) “The continued participation of community members helps make sure that real experiences and voices influence the research aspects of the project,” said Dr. Bishop. “There’s also a sense of shared responsibility that develops when community partners see that they’re part of a longer-term plan.”
The project leads identified the need for a community event to disseminate initial research findings and solicit direction on how to move forward with the development of a community-based youth wellness program. While major funders are essential to conducting research, sometimes they don’t allow for community engagement activities, which is so valuable to community-based research. That’s where the Quick Start Fund for Public Engagement was able to help. The fund offers a modest amount of funding with a quick turnaround time to support community engagement events.
“Quick Start was a great source of funding,” said Dr. Lisa Bishop, associate professor with the School of Pharmacy and one of the leads on the project. “Community engagement is a major part of our research, yet it is difficult to find funding to support this part of our project. The information gathered from the session is integral to us moving forward to our next phase.”
The public community event began with a presentation of the most relevant findings of their focus group research. This was followed by breakout sessions, each related to various findings that emerged from the research results. Groups focused on solutions to the issues identified, including access to services, how to keep the youth healthy, and how to build on the community’s own resources. The information gathered was then compiled and used to frame a community action plan which is now being used to solicit funding to develop community-based program/services for youth wellness.