Research Bulletin May 2018: Mental Health And Addictions

This month’s research bulletin focuses on research and analysis related to mental health and addictions and collects resources from Canada and Australia. In both countries, these issues are top of mind for politicians, researchers, and front-line practitioners.

The reports and summaries listed below discuss promising practices related to housing people with mental health and addiction issues, ways of translating youth mental health research into practice, a report on youth drug use and mortality, and in-depth review of the overdose crisis, as well as a report on BC’s Mental Health Act and mental health detention.

1. Translating Youth Mental Health Research into Practice
2. Promising Practices: 12 Case Studies in Supportive Housing for People with Mental Health and Addiction Issues
3. A Review of Illicit Drug Overdoses: Report to the Chief Coroner of BC
4. The Cedar Project: mortality among young Indigenous people who use drugs in British Columbia
5. Operating in Darkness: BC’s Mental Health Act Detention System

As you can see, some include promising practices, some suggest new interventions, and some suggest ways of translating research into practice—we want to share useful research and information in a useful way.

If you have feedback about how we can make these research bulletins more useful and/or if you want to suggest issues or service areas for us to pay attention to, please contact our Research and Policy Analyst.


1. Translating Youth Mental Health Research into Practice (Australia)

When it comes to youth mental health (as well as the overall mental health field) there is often a gap between new and ‘cutting-edge’ research and the front lines of mental health services and support. This short bulletin looks at ways of applying emerging knowledge on the ground in clinical practice.

The main focus is knowledge translation—trying to bridge that gap by assisting services and clinicians to implement best practices that are adapted to their particular context. Check out this bulletin for an overview of the key literature regarding what approaches and techniques are most effective for translating research evidence into practice in areas related to youth mental health.


2. Promising Practices: 12 Case Studies in Supportive Housing for People with Mental Health and Addiction Issues (Canada)

This resource guide (produced by Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Wellesley Institute) documents and reviews 12 examples of promising practices of housing-related supports for people with mental health and addiction issues.

The examples are all from Ontario but are replicable and/or adaptable examples of supportive housing practices that can be applied anywhere in Canada. And while each case study has a distinct approach, there are common themes across these twelve specific examples that can guide new interventions elsewhere. It also includes additional resources that can be borrowed and modified for use in other supportive housing programs.


3. A Review of Illicit Drug Overdoses: Report to the Chief Coroner of BC (Canada)

This report is the result of the British Columbia Coroners Service death review panel focused on illicit drug overdose deaths in the province. The review looks at the circumstances of overdose deaths over a 19-month period in order to determine what further actions are required to prevent illicit drug overdoses and overdose deaths.

The panel of authors was comprised of professionals with expertise in drugs and addictions, medicine, public health, regulatory practices, Indigenous health, child welfare, education, corrections and law enforcement and identified three key areas to focus on in order to reduce illicit drug overdose deaths in BC.


4. The Cedar Project: mortality among young Indigenous people who use drugs in British Columbia (Canada)

Young Indigenous people—particularly those involved in the child welfare system and those entrenched in substance use—are dying prematurely. This review examines mortality rates among young Indigenous people in BC and explores the most common causes and predictors of Indigenous youth mortality in order to save lives.

According to the authors, the mortality rates likely reflect complex intersections of historical and present-day injustices, substance use, and barriers to care. They argue that the “appalling” numbers must be viewed as both a public health and human rights issue and that additional (and accessible) trauma-informed programs which build on young people’s strengths and cultural identities are needed.


5. Operating in Darkness: BC’s Mental Health Act Detention System (Canada)

According to this extensive report, BC has allowed its mental health system to stagnate and “operate in darkness” resulting in BC being considered the most regressive jurisdiction in Canada when it comes to mental health detention and involuntary treatment. The stated goal of the report’s authors was to investigate and make public some of the most common and troubling components of this system.

The scope of this research project was extensive—from problematic legal criteria and decision-making processes to the use of restraints and seclusion, as well as treatment, oversight, and accountability—and it becomes clear that more investigation and “significant” action is necessary. The conclusion? BC’s Mental Health Act detention system does not just need a few amendments or tweaks, it needs to be completely overhauled.


Leadership 2020 Newsletter: Leadership & Cultural Understanding

Over the past few years, much of my work has been informed by conversations with Wedlidi Speck a broad array of wise advisors about the concepts of cultural awareness, understanding, humility, agility and safety—trying to figure out ways to foster conditions that enhance cultural safety for Indigenous staff and clients in the social care sector.

Through this work, I’ve come to a deeper understanding of what cultural safety is and what the journey towards culturally safe workplaces and services entails. And four special issues of the Leadership 2020 Newsletter are focusing on four key concepts related to this work.

The conditions for culturally safe workplaces and services evolve over time with attention and intention to continuously learn, develop and practice with cultural humility. And this journey most often starts first with building cultural awareness and then understanding.

1. Cultural Awareness
2. Cultural Understanding
Cultural Humility
4. Cultural Agility and Safety

This newsletter, the second of four, will share information, resources, and approaches related to cultural understanding. This is a shift from ‘head-‘ to ‘heart-based’ work and learning—experiencing and understanding the impacts of colonization at an emotional level and exploring the contemporary challenges and resilience of Indigenous peoples. Below are some resources to draw upon.

1. Experiential Workshops and Training Activities

Experiences and activities such as the Building Bridges to Understanding the Village training have been offered by the Federation and many Federation agencies over the past years. These experiential workshops are one way to better understand and address the trauma and impact that settlement has had on Canada’s First Nations.

The Kairos Blanket Exercise (which has also been offered at past Federation conferences) is another teaching tool—one that shares the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Keep an eye out for future learning events like these in your communities. (Or contact us about hosting one yourself!)

2. Indigenous Community Events and Actions

Attending community events led by Indigenous organizations and communities is another simple way to begin building awareness and understanding. They also offer entry points for those wanting to engage in meaningful action.

Many Federation members visited with Witness Blanket as is toured the country late last year. (It will be coming back to BC in 2019.) You could also consider getting involved in local events connected to National Day of Indigenous Peoples on June 21st or attending other local events such as the Women’s Memorial or the annual Stolen Sisters march.

3. Listen to MMIWG Inquiry Testimonies

Watching the recordings of family members telling their truths at the hearings held by National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls provides a different way of understanding the experiences of Canada’s Indigenous people (and, often, at a much deeper level).

You can also access the Inquiry’s Interim Report from 2017 which offers other important lessons about cultural understanding—different definitions of violence and trauma, alternate perspectives of colonialism, distinctions about Indigenous Nations, an explanation of the Sixties Scoop, and more.

Jennifer Charlesworth
Leadership 2020 Hosting Team


May Projects & Issues Update

Over the past few months, The Federation board members, staff team, and I have been focused on a number of ongoing projects and initiatives. We have been meeting with government colleagues and funders, bringing forward concerns, collaborating with sector colleagues, and tracking issues that affect our members and our sector.

The results of such work may not always make the news headlines, but I believe that it is important to share updates about what we’re focused on and areas where we have seen progress and successes. This week, I’d like to update our members on the following:

1. The Employer Health Tax
2. CSS Health & Safety Handbook
3. BC Housing Procurement
4. Youth in Care Week

If you have any questions about this work or other Federation projects or issues, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.

Rick FitzZaland
Federation Executive Director


1. Employer Health Tax

Like you, we are awaiting the technical details about the Employer Health Tax which will replace individual MSP premiums in 2019. The Federation has been assigned a contact person within Ministry of Finance and we will reach out to our members as soon as information becomes available. (We are intentionally waiting to contact members about the potential impact of this tax until we have more details—when the time comes, we want to make sure we ask the right questions and collect the right information.)

Last week, Finance Minister Carole James hinted at potential exemptions for charities and school districts. We expect to receive more information in the coming weeks. Once the specifics are announced, we will be analyzing the details to understand the implications for BC’s complex social care sector—a sector made up of businesses and non-profits and one in which some programs are funded through government contracts while others are not.

In the meantime, we are continuing to coordinate with other umbrella organizations in the province so that we are prepared to advocate with a strong, united voice when the time is right. We understand that the uncertainty around this tax is creating a lot of anxiety and you can be assured that The Federation is monitoring this issue very closely.


2. CSS Health & Safety Handbook

Last month, The Federation and our partners at CSSEA and WorkSafeBC released the Community Social Services Health & Safety Handbook—a first-of-its-kind resource in Canada for the social services sector. It provides strategies for employers to prevent workplace injury, respond in the event of an occupational injury, and reintegrate employees back to the workplace following an injury.

This excellent and useful resource is the product of several years of collaboration with CSSEA and WorkSafeBC. I’m proud of the relationships we’ve built as a part of this project and I’m hopeful that they will result in further opportunities to benefit our organizations and the sector at large. I’d like to thank Satvinder Basran for his excellent work as Project Manager and CSSEA CEO Gentil Mateus for his strong commitment to our partnership and to the success of this important project.

You can find a link to a PDF copy of the CSS Health & Safety Handbook online here(in addition, you can find a two-year report on the project, background info, and informative presentations). For more information about the handbook, you can contact Satvinder Basran, Project Manager of the CSS WorkSafeBC Pilot Project at


3. BC Housing Procurement

The Federation is currently trying to better understand the ways in which our members support the housing needs of people in their communities. Our Research and Policy Analyst has reached out to members providing housing services in order to review the services our members provide as well as their funding models and community partners.

We appreciate all of the responses we have received thus far. This information will inform our ongoing work with BC Housing about ways in which community planning and capacity-building is affected by the procurement practices of BC Housing. Federation members can contact for more information and to provide additional feedback.


4. BC Youth in Care Week

Are you planning an event for BC Youth in Care week? Did you know you can help fund your celebrations with a Community Celebration Bursary?

This year’s BC Youth in Care Week has been proclaimed from June 4-10, but the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks is encouraging organizers to consider hosting events as of June 2nd. (That means more time to celebrate!)

Funding applications will be reviewed on a first come, first serve basis, so apply now! Please note: the bursary funds are available for non-government-funded agencies, families, and friends. You can learn more and download the application form here. Send your completed application to

Leadership 2020 Newsletter: Leadership & Cultural Awareness

Over the past few years, Wedlidi Speck and I have been working together (and with a broad array of wise advisors) to unpack the concepts of cultural awareness, understanding, humility, agility and safety, and to figure out ways to foster conditions that enhance cultural safety for Indigenous staff and clients in the social care sector.

We have convened focus groups, surveyed staff, hosted multi-day cultural safety circles, prototyped different workshops, undertaken academic and inter-jurisdictional research, and developed resources. Members of the cultural safety circles have also undertaken their own learning and have graciously shared what seems to make a difference and what else could be tried.

Through all of this, we have come to a deeper understanding of what cultural safety is and what the journey towards culturally safe workplaces and services entails. Over the next four issues of the Leadership 2020 Newsletter, we will share information, resources, and approaches about four key concepts related to this work.

1. Cultural Awareness
2. Cultural Understanding
3. Cultural Humility
4. Cultural Agility and Safety

Cultural awareness is an important starting place. This is where we engage in the ‘head-based’ work of learning about both the historical and contemporary experiences of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island.

This involves learning about the trauma of colonization and the resilience of Indigenous families, communities, and cultures. We can do this through readings, documentaries, visual art, stories, and events. We’ve collected a number of resources to get you started below.

1. Indian Horse and #Next150

Richard Wagamese’s book, Indian Horse, should be required reading for all social care practitioners. It has also been made into a movie that is now being released throughout BC. The film sheds light on the dark history of Canada’s Residential Schools and the indomitable spirit of Indigenous people.

The movie release is also a part of the #Next150 Challenge—a year-long series of events and opportunities that will push your thinking and your understanding of Indigenous issues forward. The #Next150 Challenge is about “setting a different tone in 2018 than what we’ve seen in the first 150 years of our country” and involves many different opportunities to discover new books, music, movies, art and even make connections in your own community.

2. The Danger of a Single Story

Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered a TED talk in 2009 entitled The Danger of a Single Story. In it, she reveals the extent to which our lives and cultures are composed of many overlapping stories and how she found her authentic cultural voice. And at the heart of her story is a warning that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

This talk reminds us that the people we serve are more than the labels that have been ascribed to them. What lies below the surface of appearances, case notes, and behaviours is likely far richer and full of possibilities for relational practice. From a cultural perspective, it also reminds us that the people we serve might have diverse cultural backgrounds and may have been separated or from their authentic cultural voice.

3. Truth and Reconciliation Resources

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba has created an extensive selection of resources for students, teachers, and the general public. It includes books (with summaries and links), teaching resources, online toolkits, policy documents and legislation all organized by audience.

4. Social Policy Forum Cultural Safety Resources

The Federation has also shared a collection of resources that Wedlidi and I prepared for the 2018 Social Policy Forum that took place earlier this year. It includes a series of posters that illustrate key cultural safety concepts as well as recommended articles, books, and TED talks related to issues of cultural awareness, implicit bias, microaggressions, and language.

Jennifer Charlesworth
Leadership 2020 Hosting Team