In Alumni in Action

the Movember Project: Strength and Unity. This is the First Grant Movember Project has granted to a mental health study.
Reducing Stigma of Mental Illness among Boys and Men in Asian Communities in Canada: An Innovative and Comprehensive Intervention

Rodrick Lal, MA Counseling, 2008

Stigma associated with mental illness has detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals living with or affected by mental illness. It leads to social isolation and creates fear that prevents individuals experiencing mental health challenges from seeking help and getting early diagnosis and treatment. Research has shown that stigma affects some groups more than others. Societal gender ideologies present help-seeking as a feminine trait or a sign of weakness so that boys and men are less likely to access mental health services. Furthermore, systemic barriers associated with racism and xenophobia pose additional challenges for boys and men in some ethno-racial minority communities to get timely diagnosis and treatment.

The proposed interdisciplinary, multi-site project represents the first comprehensive anti-stigma intervention study in the Asian communities – the fastest growing immigrant population in Canada. The goal is to mobilize boys and men to become Community Mental Health Ambassadors (CMHA) to address stigma in their cultural communities. We will engage two groups of Asian boys and men: (a) individuals living with or affected by mental illness (LWA), and (b) community leaders from faith-based, media, arts, and activism sectors in piloting and evaluating two anti-stigma interventions. The Acceptance Commitment Training (ACT) is an empirically tested, intrapersonal intervention that promotes psychological flexibility and has the potential to reduce internalized stigma (both felt and enacted) stigma. The Contact-based Empowerment Education (CEE) uses an interactive approach to facilitate critical dialogue and collaborative learning to facilitate knowledge building about mental health/illness, stigma reduction, and skill development in evidence-uptake to advance practice and policy change. ACT and CEE in combination leads to an innovative and comprehensive intervention.

Guided by a population health promotion framework and an ecological approach to health, the project uses mixed (qualitative group interviews and quantitative survey) methods to explore participants’ lived experiences and perspectives about stigma of mental illness, and to evaluate the effectiveness of ACT and CEE in reducing stigma and enhancing participants’ knowledge about mental health/illness. This project is innovative in that it integrates an intergenerational, intersectoral and intercultural approach to build synergy of individual and collective empowerment and capacity building in Asian communities. From the Asian communities in Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver, we will engage 720 bilingual (English + Asian Languages) participants at each site (N=2160) including youth (aged 17-24), men (aged 25-55), and older men (aged >55). The engagement of bilingual participants is critical to achieving the desired outcome of developing and mobilizing Community Mental Health Ambassadors, who will take on leadership roles in disseminating the study results and to build capacity of anti-stigma efforts in their own cultural communities.

The project consists of three phases. Phase 1 will focus on consolidation and expansion of community collaboration and partnership networks, and refinement of interventions with guidance from community advisory members. Phase 2 will focus on recruitment, implementation of the three interventions, data collection and analysis, and evaluation of ACT, CEE, and CEE+ACT. Phase 3 will focus on knowledge translation and exchange through community engagement, multi-media, and policy forums. Results of this project will advance community mobilization for stigma reduction, knowledge uptake that promotes evidence-informed practices, and community-driven policy change.

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