The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is situated on the traditional, unceded territories of the Algonquin people. The MHCC has a rich history in community-engaged research marked by two landmark demonstration projects: At Home/Chez Soi, which helped inform a national shift in policy and dialogue towards Housing First as a response to housing/homelessness; and Roots of Hope, a community-led suicide intervention study actively underway in partner communities across Canada.
When non-medical cannabis was legalized in 2018, the MHCC was tasked with helping close the research gaps on the relationship between cannabis and mental health. In addition to investments in traditional academic research, the MHCC saw the significant contribution that community-led research investments could offer. Research driven by community members who live with mental illness and use cannabis offers important perspectives, insight and wisdom that will inform policy and practice, and create meaningful changes that truly benefit communities. We believe that there are multiple perspectives on mental health and cannabis, and each should be valued and respected. We recognize that lived experience IS knowledge, and communities themselves are best positioned to know what the community needs are and how to address them.
In 2020, the MHCC launched a Request for Proposals for community-based research in cannabis and mental health that was informed by people with lived and living experience. The response was astounding. We are thrilled to be funding 14 two-year community-based research projects that are led by communities from coast to coast to coast to explore the relationship between cannabis and mental health. These projects are community led, culturally safe, focused on equity, and centred on lived and living experience. These innovative projects from across the country will address knowledge gaps in the relationship between cannabis and mental health for priority populations, including First Nations and Métis, 2SLGBTQ+ communities, immigrant, refugee, ethnocultural, and racialized (IRER) communities and other communities who experience layered oppression. We are also excited to continue our partnership with the Centre for Community Based Research to continue supporting teams through capacity building and mentorship opportunities throughout the duration of the 2-year projects.
This has certainly been a learning process for us at the MHCC and we are so grateful for the guidance of various organizations and partners, and most importantly - communities themselves. We would not have been able to reach the point we did – funding 14 amazing projects, rooted in principles of equity and anti-oppression and centered on the lived and living experience of communities – had it not been for the valuable input of community members.