I participated in a codesign workshop in Toronto yesterday put on by the Evidence Exchange Network, focused on identifying mental healthcare evidence gathering priorities in the province, and I was so impressed to see that the top three priorities selected by the stakeholders attending were: accessibility, effectiveness, and supporting the voices of those with lived experience. When we started the Everybody has a Brain blog, these were the three areas we saw as lacking but we knew they were the keys to helping people with recovery. People didn’t know how to or weren’t able to access help, there was no readily available information on the effectiveness of help, and the most valuable support, the voices of people actually figuring out how to recover from mental illness challenges, was absent from service delivery.

Coming from a business background focused on helping companies design for their users, it is wonderful to see mental healthcare systems stepping into the 21st century and embracing the idea that customers have valuable insights to share, that we need to codesign products and services with end-users, that research can be most valuable when it’s driven by the needs of consumers.

At the codesign workshop, around the topic of effectiveness, the top evidence-need participants identified was the need for us to start measuring client recovery outcomes, as defined with the clients.

If you’re from another industry, this might seem strangely elementary. Imagine if you suggested that we should evaluate restaurants, or software, or exercise classes, or movies based on the satisfaction of customers–not ground-breaking, right? This is completely new in mental healthcare. As one of the participants pointed out at the workshop, when she started working in mental healthcare ten years ago, people with lived experience would never have been involved in discussions on gathering evidence or system transformation.

Building services around user outcomes will be transformative for mental healthcare and the results that system users see. In part, because we’ll finally be tracking the results that users see. This might be surprising to many people, but if you went to get help for your mental health, in the vast majority of countries around the world, nobody would have any data on whether the services you’ve waited for and battled to get, are actually effective. A therapist might tell you that research shows CBT is effective and they may say they do CBT, implying that you’ll see results, but that’s like a restaurant telling you that Mexican food is delicious and they serve Mexican food so you’ll be a happy customer. Implementation, delivery, and experience matter to outcomes. Mental health services need to deliver outcomes that matter to users and demonstrate them. It’s not enough to say you help or that you have a degree in helping. You have to actually help.

So a big thanks to EENet for holding the space to have these conversations and collecting the data to drive this transformation!


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