Patient Engagement

Compassionate Person-centred Mental Health Services in Rural Communities

The overall goal of our Phoenix Call to Caring Grant is to assist clients, families, health and community workers identify education needs, strategies and actions to support compassionate person-centred mental health services within three rural primary care communities in southeast Ontario.

Following our first research and advisory team meetings we held 6 focus groups in 3 participant rural communities. Our advisory team, which included volunteer community and heath worker representatives, provided guidance to us about many important issues, such as the best timing and locations for the focus groups; recommendations to recruit through the local newspaper when we were having difficulty gaining volunteer participants; and to hold focus groups for service users and family members as independent from those with the health workers to encourage more open communication. Their recommendations worked very well and we were able to complete all focus groups by early March 2016.

In these patient engagement conversations we learned about what compassionate person-centred mental health care IS and what it is NOT from the perspectives of the participants. Some examples are provided:



Participant/Patient Engagement: Four Early Recurring Themes:

1. The importance of relationships

“[The health worker in our community] comes with a bit of background – knowledge about the individuals and some of the struggles that people face. It may not help to have just anybody come in and do that job. It might not be the same. She lives in our rural area.” (Service User)

2. Challenge of accessibility to specialized services

“The biggest challenge is being able to provide a psychiatrist locally for our patients who have limited finances and difficulty with transportation. We did have a psychiatrist here for a short period two days a month. He was booked solid. Then of course he had [to leave], so now we’ve recruited another psychiatrist but he’s only available one day a month.” (Health Worker)

3. Communication to develop trust

“A huge contribution to the sense of compassion is when the patient is given a bit of information about the [health care worker] they’re being sent to. There’s an ongoing [process] of developing trust…. if there are always those warm hand-off’s”. (Service User)

4. The significance of inter-organizational collaborations

“I find the [network of agencies] gives a safety net. So for instance, I can come to the meeting and say to the doctor that one of our shared clients isn’t doing well and might be a bit depressed. The doctor will then come talk to [the client} about it…the safety net might not have happened [otherwise]”. (Health Worker)

The next steps of the Grant project will include additional meetings and insights with research and advisory teams; disseminating an early summary of findings to the participants for their confirmation and feedback; and the planning of further dissemination and discussions with the communities involved. These consultations will help to determine relevant and authentic opportunities for education about compassionate person-centred mental health care for all stakeholders in their local contexts.

Are there any themes that you would like to see added? Let us know in the comments section, or on twitter!

About the author

Dr. Rosemary Brander
  • AffiliationQueen's University

Dr. Brander is an Assistant Professor (Adjunct) at the School of Rehabilitation Therapy at Queen's University.

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