How patients are helping to shape the future of research at HRI

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At a recent mental health event, HRI invited patients in recovery from addiction to help us identify meaningful priorities for future mental health and addiction research.

In the field of mental health research, patients are the most important stakeholders. They bring the perspective of experts with lived experience who can make important contributions that enhance the relevance and legitimacy of research.

To ensure that HRI’s work is responsive to the needs of Canadians, we aim to engage patients in identifying and informing meaningful research priorities and plans. In this way, patients are partners, playing an active role in shaping the mental health and addiction research agenda.

When HRI launched the Recovery Journey Project, a study examining the long-term outcomes of mental health and addiction treatment, we worked with patients to determine which aspects of recovery were most important to them. Now in its fifth year, the Recovery Journey Project is generating findings that can be used to improve treatment in Canada and help patients get better, sooner.

At a recent event in Guelph, Ontario, HRI invited patients in recovery from addiction to tell us what kinds of questions they think need to be answered about recovery.

The event, called Spiritual Renewal, is an annual celebration hosted by HRI’s primary research partner, Homewood Health. Patients from Homewood Health Centre’s residential addiction program gather each year to celebrate recovery milestones and support one another.

HRI has attended the Spiritual Renewal event for several years. Many attendees are alumni who have participated in the Recovery Journey Project. Others are current patients of the Health Centre, and the remaining attendees are family members. This year, we asked attendees, including family members, to help us determine future directions for the project. In particular, we wanted to know:

  • Which areas they feel should be the focus of future research, and
  • What kinds of questions they have about recovery.

What did patients tell us?

Mental health ranked as the number one priority research area among those who participated. Some of the most pressing questions included:

  • What are the impacts of concurrent disorders on recovery?
  • How does childhood trauma affect recovery?
  • Why do some people develop an addiction while others don’t?

Other major areas of interest and accompanying questions included:

  • Aftercare: does it work?
  • Social influences on recovery: how important is it to have a strong support system that includes people with lived experience?
  • Personal influences on recovery: does quality of life change over time?

View priority research areas and related questions as identified by patients

What happens next?

With these insights, we can begin to explore the emerging research themes that matter to patients the most. Findings can then be used to inform meaningful improvements to care and ultimately to generate better treatment results.

The expertise that patients bring to the table will enable us to shape future research activities to better help the patients and families who stand to benefit from our work the most.