Ally Giesbrecht, Ali Lohan, Becky Kean, Mo (Mohammed) Khaleghi-Moghaddan, Elvenia Sandiford, Jenny Hawkinson, Ivan Lim, Karen Lo, Felicia Chang

Knowledge Translation Re-imagining: Healthcare in the DTES

Team members: Ally Giesbrecht (Community Capacity Program, SFU; UBC), Ali Lohan (Community Capacity Program, SFU), Becky Kean (Community Capacity Program, SFU; VCH), Mo (Mohammed) Khaleghi-Moghaddan (Peer Advisor), Elvenia Sandiford (Community Capacity Program, SFU), Jenny Hawkinson (Transart Institute, Visual Artist), Ivan Lim (Animator), Karen Lo (Interaction Designer), Felicia Chang (Photographer)

Project Description

The current mental health system offers little opportunity for people with lived experiences to inform their own care or treatment; violating principles of “nothing about us without us”. People with lived experience of MHSU are frequently blamed for their plight and problematized as being a burden on the health system due to frequent or costly health care access. The current discourse has overwhelmingly been informed by research and perspectives of those with power: hospital administrators and statisticians, health researchers, doctors, governments etc., however, these dominant narratives contribute to an oppositional relationship between health care providers and those accessing care, resulting in discriminatory treatment towards clients, dehumanization, burnout for care providers, high staff turnover, a destabilized workforce, and worse health outcomes for all.

In 2021, some members of our team conducted a participatory qualitative research study with the intention of amplifying perspectives and experiences of those with lived experience of mental health and substance use. We are now at the stage where we would like to share and reflect on our findings with stakeholder communities. Given the history of extractive research practices in neighbourhoods like the DTES, it is of utmost importance that findings be shared in meaningful ways with the existing community and to maximize ownership of this work by those who contributed to it. Access and ownership of this knowledge is important to support efforts to hold the health system accountable to its pursuit of health equity.

Our team formally and informally consists of artists, community organizers, peer advisors and support workers, and an occupational therapist, interaction designer, a photographer, and an animator. Our primary goal is for this project to be a community effort; for there to be authentic engagement with study findings through discussion, response through art, and visioning of what a better health system could be for people with lived experiences of MHSU. This effort aims to center and normalize the inclusion of lived experiences, and to prioritize lived experience perspectives when designing systems that will ultimately impact them most.

Community Partners: