Online tool aims to improve experiences of young people in the mental health care system

The module was born out of Dr. Javeed Sukhera’s research into understanding bias in the mental health care system.

A new online project launching today aims to improve the experiences of young people entering the mental health care system.

A joint venture between Western University researcher Dr. Javeed Sukhera and mindyourmind, the project includes an online module for youth called Shared Humanity. The goal is to help youth learn about the mental health care system and be better prepared to build a trusting relationship with their health care provider.

“Our research found that recognizing one another’s humanity is an essential ingredient in reducing stigma, and improving the health care experience for those who are suffering,”  said Dr. Sukhera, Associate Professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

Through mindyourmind, the module was co-created with young people, who helped create content, write the scenarios and design the graphic illustrations. It takes about 30 minutes to complete and has three main sections – shared trust, shared power and shared humanity.

“By being a part of the creation of Shared Humanity, I was able to use my lived experience to ensure that future youth can have a positive experience while accessing mental health services,” said Elora Watson, one of the youth involved in co-creating the module. “Being provided a safe space to share my voice and in turn, influence change, was a truly empowering and rewarding experience. This tool opened my eyes to the biases we all possess, helping me to find humanity in the professionals that support us.”

Using true-to-life scenarios, the module emphasizes the importance of trust, and how it can be fostered or broken, and also addresses the concept of power and offers youth ways to reconcile the power differential that they may feel. It also provides an entire section that helps youth to see their health care provider as a human being with feelings, worries and flaws.

The creators say in order to reach a wide audience, and to engage with youth in particular, it was critical to make this a digitally-based, online tool.

“If youth are seeing something in a format that is accessible and interesting to them, then it resonates with them in a different way,” said Heather Miko-Kelly, Program Manager at mindyourmind. “In our experiences at mindyourmind, we’ve found that the way the information is presented is just as important as the information itself.”

The module was born out of Dr. Sukhera’s research into understanding bias in the mental health care system. Through his research, he realized that a barrier to successful care was that health care providers have unconscious biases about the patients they treat, and also that the people with lived experiences have those biases about people who work in health care.

Dr. Sukhera says out of that research came the idea of ‘shared humanity.’ “We wanted to create a platform for both health professionals and young people with lived experience to recognize the humanity in each other. We are hoping to reduce stigma at both ends of the relationship.”

The next part of this project includes a shared humanity module for the health care providers, which is expected to be launched in the next year.

“We hope this is just the beginning of something, and that this can act as an igniter to begin the conversation about how we can use digital technology to make the kind of change we need in the system,” he said.

The project was funded through grants from The City of London and AMS Healthcare.

MEDIA CONTACT: Crystal Mackay, Media Relations Officer, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Western University, t. 519.661.2111 ext. 80387, c. 519.933.5944, @CrystalMackay

Western University delivers an academic experience second to none. Since 1878, The Western Experience has combined academic excellence with life-long opportunities for intellectual, social and cultural growth in order to better serve our communities. Our research excellence expands knowledge and drives discovery with real-world application. Western attracts individuals with a broad worldview, seeking to study, influence and lead in the international community.

The Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University is one of Canada’s preeminent medical and dental schools. Established in 1881, it was one of the founding schools of Western University and is known for being the birthplace of family medicine in Canada. For more than 130 years, the School has demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence and a passion for scientific discovery.

yourmind, a Program of ConnexOntario, is an award-winning, national non-profit mental health program that works in partnership with youth, emerging adults and the professionals who serve them to co-develop innovative tools and resources. These resources are often designed to reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses and increase access and use of community support, both professional and peer-based. mindyourmind inspires youth to reach out, get help and give help.