Co-designing action-oriented mental health conversations between care providers and aging Canadians in the community: mitigating the wider impacts of COVID-19
The COVID‑19 pandemic has worsened a pre-existing mental health crisis in Canada which has greatly affected older adults. It is critical that our health and social care systems are equipped to respond to the increased need for mental health support, care and treatment across the lifespan to prepare for future emergencies and pandemics. We partnered with older adults, caregivers, and health and social care providers during the COVID‑19 pandemic. Over 1000 survey responses, and engagement of 52 workshop participants from across Canada led to the identification of a priority list of research questions on aging and mental health important to Canadians. Top priorities were the urgent need for skill-building in providers who are not mental health specialists and finding simple tools to support identification of mental health status. We identified the Mental Health Continuum (MHC) tool, which supports mental health reflection, monitoring and follow up. The MHC tool has been tested with young adults, but not older adults. Our proposed project aims to adapt the MHC tool and co-create and test processes for facilitating mental health conversations and follow-up actions in health and social care settings across Canada. In consultation with our Steering Committee of experts by lived experience, and our national team of researchers and partners, we propose a 3-phase study. We will conduct workshops and surveys with participants representing diverse experiences, and test the adapted tool and processes in 6 urban and rural communities across 3 provinces. We want to understand implementation and assess potential for broader impact. This project will act on priority research questions identified by Canadians during the COVID‑19 pandemic, in response to the growing mental health crisis for Canada’s diverse aging population. Results will lessen the impact of COVID‑19 and build individual, community and system resilience in preparation for future health emergencies and pandemics.