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The CatalystConversations on Mental Health

A call for communities to join our Roots of Hope Early Adopters initiative

When the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) launched its Roots of Hope suicide prevention project in eight communities across Canada, the concept was ambitious: Build on community expertise to implement interventions tailored to the local context, while developing a wider evidence base of best practices, guidelines, and tools fit for a national scale-up.

But with the initial demonstration phase of the project slated to take place over five years, others began asking how their community might get involved without having to wait so long. Eager to share the model as widely as possible, the MHCC’s Prevention and Promotion team answered the call by developing the Roots of Hope Early Adopters initiative.

Like the demonstration project, the strategies and activities developed by Early Adopters will be based on Roots of Hope’s five pillars: specialized supports, training and networks, public awareness campaigns, means safety, and research.

“This program was born from community demand,” said Nitika Rewari, manager of Prevention and Promotion Initiatives at the MHCC. “Early Adopters will be the first to learn from what’s happened so far in the demonstration project as they begin building their own action plans, all with the guidance of the commission.”

Much of that guidance will be in the form of a community of practice (CoP), consisting of representatives from fellow Early Adopter communities and MHCC program staff. The CoP meetings will give Early Adopters access to tools and resources already developed in the demonstration project. It will also let them ask questions, share what is and isn’t working, and draw from the collective well of experience. It’s a model that’s proven invaluable for the first eight Roots of Hope communities, who continue to draw on their own CoP meetings for guidance, knowledge sharing, and connection.

“The diversity of communities represented in the CoP has been incredibly informative to the work we are doing in Iqaluit,” said Opal Mcinnis, PhD, territorial manager of mental health and addictions facilities with the Nunavut government. “As a project site that is in its early days of planning, the CoP has created excitement for what we can look forward to achieving.”

Denika Ward, a suicide prevention coordinator with the Burin Peninsula community, agrees about the value of the CoP. “It has allowed for networking with individuals from various communities involved in the Roots of Hope project across Canada and contributed to the positive, long-lasting effects of suicide prevention efforts for residents of the Burin Peninsula.”

Roots of Hope IconWhile the eight demonstration project communities and the Early Adopters will operate independently, all the findings will ultimately contribute to a national scale-up of the Roots of Hope model. As communities band together to find the most effective strategies for them, they will simultaneously lay the groundwork for a Canadian model of community-led suicide prevention.

For Ryan Walsh, Prevention and Promotion program manager, that combination of long- and short-term rewards is what sets the Early Adopters initiative apart. “Not many communities can say they directly contributed to suicide prevention on a national scale. Early Adopters have a rare opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to suicide prevention, benefit from what the demonstration project communities have learned, and be at the forefront of the Canadian model.”

As Walsh is quick to point out, the opportunity to be an Early Adopter is not limited to large, urban areas — far from it. “Part of the project’s strength comes from the diversity of the participating communities. What works for one area may be completely unfeasible for another. The more we can learn from those differences, the more successful the model will be in reducing the impact of suicide across the country.”

Interested in becoming a Roots of Hope Early Adopter? Email Nitika Rewari for more information at nrewari@mentalhealthcommission.ca

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.

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