A time of reflection to take action together - where smiles do not need ethics approval, and kindness flourishes in peer review

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As we start a new year, it’s time to reflect on our knowledge gained through those important moments that illustrates our shared goals of supporting and helping those living with mental health challenges. Our collaborative model of involving those with lived or family experience in our research and evaluation accomplishments is very much aligned with our themes of support, recovery and community at Hope + Me | Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. These strong relationships we have developed is a prime example of how researchers and community organizations can work in partnership, through our shared goals and vision that ultimately aims to help those living with mental health challenges.

In 2015, a poll of our membership showed a vast majority of our community members believed in the importance of research and wanted increasing involvement of the organization in such projects. As a result, it was important for us to create advisory committees which consist of members with lived and/or caregiver experience with mood disorders. These incredible members represent a cross section of the country and offer their extensive experience and expertise in helping us guide our research and program evaluation initiatives.

In the following year, we partnered with CREST.BD where we co-hosted a series of province-wide community consultations to help create the online Bipolar Wellness Centre.

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Our long time collaborative partners at Sunnybrook invited us to their annual SCORE-YBD Family Day to engage the public on the importance of perspectives of those with lived experience in their research.
At the inaugural CAN-BIND Family and Friends Day, the focus was to celebrate and express appreciation to participants and their families in order to increase awareness of depression and share knowledge. Another very successful initiative is The Distinguished Speakers Series, which is a joint venture between by the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario and CAN-BIND. Each event features two distinguished speakers, a researcher, who presents on how research can impact clinical care, and a speaker with lived experience with mental health challenges, who shares their personal journey of recovery. These powerful and inspiring stories of hope, perseverance and courage are extremely well received by the public.

Stories Across the Lifespan showcased a highly successful event where we partnered with the ASR Centre for Depression and Suicide Studies and the Sunnybrook Collaborative on Research and Education in Youth Bipolar Disorder for a public event where persons from three age groups shared their personal stories and the challenges of living with a mental illness at each stage of their life. The clinical and research perspective of these partnerships were brought together, providing the neurobiology of mental health across the lifespan, with a focus on youth living with bipolar disorder.

We also want to showcase the importance of our partnership with the Ontario Brain Institute whose focus is on collaboration to help those living with brain disorders and help connect the research back to the community.
Without their support we could not have created the award winning CHOICE-D Guide that aims to raise awareness and knowledge about depression treatment options, engage in shared decision-making with healthcare professionals in order to empower a person to take an active role in their own care.
Finally, a sincere, heart warming thank you to all our community advisory committee members who have truly given their expertise to ensure their perspectives are woven into the work we do with hope, courage and kindness. Let’s all continue to increase awareness and share our knowledge as we move forward into the New Year.