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Mental Health

Emotions Matter: Skill Building, Emotional Resilience and Social Support for Care Workers

CMHA Hamilton is partnering with McMaster to enhance workplace mental health, specifically, to develop improved supports for frontline care workers.

Led by Dr. Diana Singh, the team will use evidence-based research to assist in the creation of workplace resources and strategies designed to promote emotional resiliency among community care professionals.

Broad Objectives:

  1. Examine the broader social context in which socioemotional stressors arise during client care delivery.
  2. Design a standardized social support and skills building program for emotionally challenging/laborious work environments. A pilot study of the new program will be conducted with CMHA Hamilton’s front line staff.

Read the CMHA Emotions Matter Report.

A Way Through - Grief, Memorials, and Loss through COVID-19: Resources for Caring while Physical Distancing

Social isolation and physical distancing requirements create unique challenges for individuals responding to loss and being supportive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Periods of rapid or intense social change intensify feelings of grief, worsening negative thinking and problematic behaviours.

Dr. Ameil Joseph has partnered with CMHA Hamilton to develop an online resource to support individuals dealing with loss, bereavement and grief. Users can access current resources and contribute their own. Contributions from cultural, religious and spiritual leaders have been included in the collection.

Visit the A Way Through website to explore the resources.

Investigating the Role of Peer Support in Reducing the Harms of Substance Use and Advancing Recovery: A Qualitative Analysis of CMHA Hamilton’s Community Mental Health Peer Support Initiatives

The Canadian Mental Health Association, Hamilton Branch (CMHA) has partnered with Dr. James Gillett and doctoral students Rachel VanEvery and Jeff Black to evaluate the impact of CMHA’s peer-based support program which provides mental health support for working-aged men and transitional aged youth who use substances.

The primary goal of this project is to support mental health and maximize harm reduction and advance recovery among the priority populations through quantitative and qualitative impact assessments which will inform the expansion of peer-based support.

The program provides SMART recovery-based support to reduce the harms of substance use and advance recovery. The CMHA collects entrance and exit data from program participants. The research partnership will analyze these data, determine the strengths of the program, and set the foundations for ongoing evaluation and best practices to further meet the needs of the community.

View the project's report.

Loneliness & Mental Health Through COVID-19 and Beyond

The contexts and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have revealed several important issues that require responses to address emerging and unaddressed mental health needs. The experiences, circumstances, and contexts of loneliness have often been inadequately prioritized within mental health resources and service provision. During the COVID-19 pandemic, matters related to loneliness, grief, loss, and bereavement have been exacerbated by restrictions to how, when, where and why we are able to socially connect, care and support others. These issues are not only impacting people in the present but will have lasting effects on people’s mental health and wellness in the future.

This collaborative project between Canadian Mental Health Association Ontario, Dr. Ameil Joseph and doctoral student Shaila Kumhare, seeks to draw on current research on loneliness, grief, loss, and bereavement to develop capacity for addressing these mental health needs as well as to highlight core issues, cultivate evidence-based resources and articulate recommendations to policy makers, healthcare providers, and community service providers.   This research will also draw attention to populations most at risk or in need such as newcomers, aging people, new mothers, etc. This research initiative will engage in critical analysis of how these social and mental health issues are experienced in inequitable ways.

Managing Mental Health: A Survey-Based Research Evaluation of a COVID-19 Emergency Mental Health Counselling Program

In the midst of the current global COVID-19 pandemic, frontline service workers (e.g., healthcare and social services) are experiencing unprecedented work conditions that are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting, which impact one’s psychological well-being. To combat the impending mental health crises, McMaster researchers partnered with the CMHA Hamilton to assess the effectiveness of a CMHA Hamilton’s free short-term counselling initiative offered to healthcare and social service workers in Hamilton. The counselling program is being offered to all Hamilton essential human services staff experiencing stress and anxiety from working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dr. Diana Singh, lead a survey-based research program evaluation of CMHA’s new counselling initiative in order to determine its effectiveness in combatting the short and long-term mental health consequences—e.g. anxiety, post-traumatic stress, chronic stress and burnout—of working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic. The results of this evaluation will inform program improvement and further program development.

Self-Care for Students: Community Engaged Research for Better Well-Being

McMaster researchers Drs. Marisa Young and James Gillett are partnering with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Hamilton to understand which self-care tools are effective for post-secondary students and to develop essential programming that will narrow the pernicious disparity between the demand and delivery of mental health care for Hamilton’s post-secondary students. This project aims to improve understanding and promotion of self-care from a social science perspective.

This collaborative project between CMHA and McMaster University will address the following questions:

1) What self-care practices do university students pursue in the promotion of their mental health?
2) Which forms of self-care promote resilience in students?
3) What are the barriers that students face when attempting to manage their own mental health on and off campus?
4) How can local community organizations help promote student self-care and resilience in ways that align with the needs of students?

Our understanding of mental health is socially scientific, rather than situated in the dominant medical model. From this view, mental health is not about the absence of mental illness but rather the overall well-being of a person across many roles and contexts, which places the social causes and consequences of mental health at the forefront (Aneshensel et al. 2013). We recognize that social factors impact well-being and resultantly requires the collective attention of research and community. 

Staying Home: Program Assessment of the Multi-sectoral Intensive Supports Pilot Approach to Finding and Securing Housing for Persons Experiencing Chronic Homelessness in Hamilton

CMHA Hamilton in collaboration with McMaster researchers Dr. James Gillett, Samantha Perrotta, Rachel VanEvery and Jeffery Black, aimed to assess the effectiveness of the Intensive Supports Pilot (ISP) program. The ISP is a strategic collaboration between CMHA Hamilton, St. Joseph’s Health Care and the City of Hamilton that aims to provide trauma-informed, person centred care; links to comprehensive primary care to facilitate management of concurrent health and social needs; and, test new mechanisms of collaboration to ensure health and housing resources are accessible and appropriate to meet needs of highly acute individuals.

The program assessment included a comprehensive review and analysis of the literature on chronic homelessness and involved interviews with all project stakeholders including clients. The aim of the assessment was to better understand how this multi-sectoral collaboration contributed to securing and maintaining housing for individuals that face multiple and serious barriers to maintaining their health and wellbeing. 

View the Staying Home Final Report

Arts Informed Research

Centre[4] Art and Research

When art and social science come together, what becomes possible? Centre[3] for Artistic and Social Practice is working in collaboration with the Community Research Platform (CRP) to develop Centre[4] Art and Research. The creation of Centre[4] is meant to facilitate meaningful and equitable collaborations between artists and researchers in the Hamilton community, to highlight and facilitate art and research, and to develop accessible resources and sustainable infrastructure to support these activities.

This initiative is led by Cathy Paton, postdoctoral fellow, and supported by a working group comprised of representatives from McMaster and Centre [3] including Colina Maxwell (Social Practice Director, C[3]), Sarah Sproule (Social Practice Coordinator, Centre [3]), Alexe Bernier (PhD Candidate and CRP intern), Chris Sinding (Acting Director, CRP), and Leora Sas van der Linden (CRP Manager).

A unique and fundamental aspect of Centre[4] is that the work and motivations are centered in the community, creating space for artists, artful practices, and researchers to meaningfully shape research activities. Through maintaining a strong collaborative relationship between Centre [3] and McMaster’s CRP, Centre[4] will strive to intentionally center artist presence, input and practice in community research.

Social Engagement and Community Resilience

Aging in Place with Public Libraries

Nearly a quarter of older Canadians experience some level of social isolation, meaning they have few close social relationships. Being socially isolated can negatively impact a person’s mental and physical health. In recognition of this growing issue in Canadian communities, Drs. Nicole Dalmer, Meridith Griffin, and James Gillett and Hamilton Public Library are researching what public libraries are doing and how they can best support older adults who are socially isolated.

Emotional Labour in Libraries: Stressors in the Library Work Field

The Hamilton Public Library has partnered with McMaster in stage 2 of the broader Emotions Matter study along with three other Library Systems in Ontario: Grimsby, Burlington, and Brantford.

Dr. Diana Singh and her research team have launched an Employee Health and Well-Being Survey across the four Public Library Systems, to examine the consequences of emotional labour and emotion management among a sample of Ontario Library Workers.

The study will contribute to current efforts to improve organizational practices and employee wellness programs across the four library systems and will help inform the development of a social support program and emotional labour skills training course for public service workers.

Read the HPL Emotions Matter Report.

Hamilton Public Library Food Security Project

Food insecurity is a growing issue in Canada. Inadequate or insecure access to nutritious food has a significant negative impact on mental, emotional, social and physical health. Public libraries have a long history of working to address community issues, including food insecurity. They connect community members to information and resources, offer programs that teach food skills, host community gardens and occasionally distribute food.

Hamilton Public Library (HPL) is working with three Masters of Public Health Students, Kiara Pannozzo, Moizza Zia Ul Haq and Maiura Muralitharan, to identify the most strategic and impactful approaches for addressing food insecurity and to complement the ongoing efforts of other organizations in Hamilton who are working to reduce food insecurity.

This study involves a literature review of public libraries and food security programs, an environmental scan of food initiatives in Hamilton, and interviews with leaders involved in these initiatives. The project will produce a report to support HPL in making informed decisions about its food security programs.

View the Promoting Food Security in Public Libraries Report.

Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) & Hamilton Public Library PRESTO Card Pilot Evaluation

On November 1st 2021, Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) transit introduced a new pilot program to encourage more residents to use transit and ensure that fares remain affordable during COVID-19. As part of the program, HSR is allowing children ages six to twelve to ride for free with a PRESTO card. To increase accessibility, Hamilton Public Library (HPL) is offering children a free PRESTO card.

HSR and HPL are partnering with Dr. Moataz Mohamed from McMaster’s Department of Civil Engineering to evaluate the pilot. He will explore how well the new program improves the quality of life for community members, in areas such as, the ability to access community resources, discover Hamilton and the degree to which greenhouse emissions are reduced. Dr. Mohamed’s evaluation will help the City of Hamilton to assess the new program and will inform recommendations for the ongoing pilot.

Monitoring My Mobility

Mobility throughout life is important for maintaining one’s wellbeing. A team of McMaster researchers and HPL are working together to improve the identification and assessment of early mobility limitations among older Canadians.

In this study, approximately 2000 older adults in Hamilton will use a mobility tracker, such as a smart watch, to monitor their mobility and health. Hamilton Public Library (HPL) will be a site where older adults can learn more about and participate in this study if they wish. Likewise, HPL will help older adults access information on mobility and the study’s results.

Promoting Digital Literacy through Public Libraries

Digital literacy is being able to use digital information and technology effectively, efficiently, and ethically. This skill set is important when it comes to staying connected to family and friends who live far away, staying safe on the internet, gaining access to information, and participating in the workforce.

Drs. Brian Detlor and Tara LaRose from McMaster, along with Hamilton Public Library, are exploring how public libraries can best deliver and evaluate programs and initiatives that help improve digital literacy skills among community members.

Toward the Development of a Framework for Research Collaboration Between Public Libraries and Post-Secondary Institutions

As the researcher-in-residence at Hamilton Public Library (HPL), Post-Doctoral Fellow Kaitlin Wynia will be seeking to both understand the research questions and needs of public libraries and how universities can help answer these questions and address these needs. Likewise, Kaitlin will be helping to facilitate research partnerships between McMaster and HPL. This position is a joint initiative between McMaster University and HPL that is built on the premise that public libraries and universities can benefit greatly by partnering to conduct research. To ensure the sustainability and impact of these partnerships, they need to be grounded in an awareness of each organizations’ research needs, goals, resources, and strengths.

This project will produce a framework that guides public libraries in identifying research needs, strategically selecting university partners, and developing research plans that address each organizations’ roles and responsibilities. While frameworks for community-university partnerships exist, none are tailored to the unique context of public library-university research collaborations. To build such a framework, this project will entail a systematic synthesis of literature relevant to supporting strong university-community partnerships, participant observation of HPL’s research culture, and a survey of the research needs and practices at HPL and three other public library systems in Western, Central, and Atlantic Canada.

Public Library Research Partnership Toolkit

Social Work in Libraries

Located at the heart of communities and committed to social justice, public libraries are well-positioned to engage with a diverse population. However, library workers might not be fully equipped or have the capacity to serve the growing number of residents with complex needs that turn to them for help. To address this gap, public libraries increasingly seek out the support of social workers.

The Social Work in Libraries project is designed to integrate and inform social work practice within Hamilton Public Library (HPL) to respond to individual, community and institutional needs. Library social workers have the skills to engage patrons directly and provide support, such as referrals and outreach. They also offer educational resources to library employees and help build community networks. Through research and policy development efforts, library social workers are able to reduce barriers for marginalized patrons.

As a part of her placement, undergraduate Social Work student Angelica Esposito conducted a literature review of social work practice in libraries and an environmental scan of Canadian Public Libraries hosting social workers and social work students. The findings have been shared with HPL and McMaster’s School of Social Work through a presentation which summarized the benefits, challenges, and models of library-social work partnerships.

Gender & Intersectionality

Mobilizing Resources for People Experiencing Pregnancy and Homelessness

McMaster’s Community Research Platform has partnered with the YWCA of Hamilton and the Community-University Policy Alliance (McMaster School of Social Work) to focus on the need for integrated, low-barrier reproductive health care and pregnancy services for people experiencing homelessness in Hamilton. The issue was exacerbated over the last year, as access to prenatal health care services, contraceptive options, abortions, and many other essential services became exponentially more difficult during the pandemic. 

In response to these issues, the CRP convened a group of researchers and students to work in partnership with a team from the YWCA Hamilton to organize a call-to-action forum to bring attention to this critical issue.  In advance of the forum, researchers interviewed individuals with lived experience of being pregnant and homeless. This feedback helped to inform the development of concrete recommendations to improve supports for those experiencing pregnancy and homelessness in Hamilton.

Learn more about the Mobilizing Resources for People Experiencing Pregnancy and Homelessness initiative. 

Nurturing Good Beginnings: Evaluating and Assessing the YWCA’s community care program for new mothers/birthing parents

Good Beginnings is a support program for mothers and birthing parents who are vulnerable, precarious and at risk of postpartum depression. Since 2014, they have provided support to over 500 individuals and their babies.

Led by Dr. Tina Moffat and graduate student Isabel Dewey, the YWCA and McMaster will examine six years of entrance, mid and exit data from program participants. The data will be analyzed to determine the strengths of the program. Additionally, the team will create frameworks for ongoing evaluation and best practices to maximize the ability of Good Beginnings to meet community needs.

Physical Activity for Any-Body: Body Positivity and Inclusivity Within Physical Culture(s)

This project seeks to understand and promote the inclusivity of physical spaces, such as organized or casual sport occurring in community recreational centers. Researchers will develop an understanding of supposedly inclusive physical spaces and the experiences of those who participate in physical activity while self-identifying as having a ‘non-normative’ body. Scholars have criticized mainstream recreation and sport industries for promoting a narrowly defined normalized body that is young, male, thin, cisgender, straight, white, affluent, and able-bodied. Unable to achieve this ideal, many are dissuaded from participating in physical activity or opt to create their own segregated spaces, such as LGBTQ+ or women-only fitness centers.

The team will develop an evidence base that will support efforts to increase participation of a greater diversity of Canadians in spaces for sport and physical activity. This project can support sport and physical activity organizations (such as the YWCA, a primary stakeholder) in broadening the scope of who is included in and who benefits from the spaces they cultivate. Findings will be of key interest to organizations that seek to promote equitable access to physical activity and sport.  

Researchers: Meridith Griffin, Ann Fudge Schormans, Chelsea Gabel, Kimberly Lopez.

Responding to Pregnancy, Infant Apprehension and Homelessness: Building Community Capacity for Adequate Housing and Support Through YWCA Hamilton

Existing Canadian-based research notes widespread lack of access to appropriate housing and community-based supports during pregnancy and postpartum for people who experience street-level homelessness. A myriad of compounding structural inequities positions this population at a significant risk of having their newborn apprehended at birth by child welfare organizations.

In collaboration with McMaster University, YWCA Hamilton is researching models of housing with wrap-around support for pregnant people experiencing homelessness. Key objectives for the project include:

  1. Building knowledge on the types of housing support models that currently exist to respond to complex homelessness, pregnancy, and newborn apprehension across Canada and internationally
  2. Gathering the perspectives of mothers and birthing people, who have experienced pregnancy and newborn apprehension, on the types of housing and support models that would be best suited to addressing their needs.

Adjunct Professor (Political Science) and YWCA Hamilton Senior Program Analyst, Violetta Nikolskaya, Faculty Member, Mary Vaccaro (School of Social Work), and Dr. Saara Greene (School of Social Work) are the lead researchers for this project, and holders of a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant. They are supported by graduate student research assistants, Samm Floren and Angelica Esposito. 

YWCA Hamilton Centre for Feminist Research and Evaluation

YWCA Hamilton is collaborating with McMaster’s Community Research Platform and the School of Social Work to establish a Centre for Feminist Research and Evaluation. YWCA Hamilton aims to strengthen their capacity to initiate and lead research and policy advocacy using a gender-based lens. Through the Centre, they will be able to undertake, co-lead, and partner on action-oriented, community-based research. Information about current and past research activity will also be housed on the YWCA website.

This project is being led by YWCA staff as well as School of Social Work Faculty Member, Mary Vaccaro, CRP Program Manager, Leora Sas van der Linden, and Community-Engaged Research Graduate Student Intern, Stephanie Milliken.

YWCA Hamilton Power Up: Small Business Program Participant Feedback Survey

The YWCA of Hamilton is working with the Community Research Platform to conduct a survey with past participants of their Power UP Program, an intensive, ten week, business training program for women entrepreneurs looking to start or scale up their businesses. Through bi-weekly theme-based workshops and one-on-one business coaching sessions, Power Up participants develop a range of skills and strategies for building and scaling their business in critical areas such as, marking, sales, finance, legal and operations.

Since its launch in 2019, 69 individuals have joined the program. Feedback from participants indicates the program is achieving its objectives, however, the YWCA needs to obtain specific data on participant experience and business outcomes to support ongoing program improvement, advancement and sustainability. 

Working in collaboration with YWCA staff, this project is being led by Leora Sas van der Linden (CRP Program Manager) and Dr. James Gillet (Associate Professor, Dept. of Health, Aging and Society) and with the support of Madison Hayes (Undergraduate Student Research Assistant) and Allison Leanage (Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dept. of Political Sciences).