Colleen Reid, PhD

Posted: June 22, 2018

Welcome to our first Upstream Change e-newsletter! Imagining Inclusion: Creating Upstream Change in Community Mental Health is a 3-year community based participatory research project.

This collaboration between Douglas College, Open Door Group and York University is funded by the Vancouver Foundation and backed by Vancouver Coastal Health. The major goal of Upstream Change is to investigate the potential for individual, organizational and systemic change in the community mental health system.

There is a strong tendency for mental health programs and services to focus on individual, or downstream, factors, while paying less attention to more systemic, or upstream, issues such as poverty, housing, and food security. Our fundamental belief is that well-supported and resourced peer leadership and research can be an effective way to initiate shifts in the community mental health system towards addressing more upstream factors.

We are in the second year of Upstream Change. To date we have written an extensive literature review and environmental scan, provided an 8-week peer research training, and conducted Photovoice at 2 community mental health sites. Currently research participants are involved in a ‘Telling Your Story and Being Heard’ program focused on public speaking and advocacy in mental health.

Peer researchers and student research assistants have been involved in designing and implementing all project activities. The goals of these project activities are two-fold: (1) to provide peer researchers with the opportunity to develop their research and leadership skills, and (2) to provide participants with opportunities for exploring their lived experiences of mental illness, with the intention of sharing the upstream factors that shape their lived experience and potentially leading to individual and collective action.

Ultimately, Upstream Change intends to use a participatory and collaborative approach to research to expose and take action on the difficulties of living with mental illness, including societal, systemic, organizational, and personal barriers, and to facilitate changes in the community mental health system in order to better address these barriers.