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Community-Based Research Projects: Cannabis and Mental Health

The MHCC is funding 14 two-year projects (2020-22) to address knowledge gaps in the relationship between mental health and cannabis among priority populations. Watch our video on community-based research and how it can be used to engage with and benefit the communities it affects.

Project snapshots

A Joint Production: Using Participatory Video for Stigma Reduction and Public Education (Montreal, Quebec)

Priority population: People with mental illness who use cannabis

Through a participatory process, participants will create and disseminate videos about cannabis and mental illness. Videos will be designed to educate viewers and reduce stigma while fostering empowerment, recovery, and resilience for participants. This project will be carried out by Recovery Advocacy Documentary Action Research (RADAR), in partnership with members from Donald Berman UP House, a psychosocial rehabilitation centre that serves adults who have experienced psychiatric difficulties.

The Impacts of Cannabis Use on the Mental Health of In-Risk Communities (Calgary, AB)

Priority population: People living with mental illness who use cannabis and are homeless, racialized, and/or face poverty

Using interviews, surveys, and systems mapping to engage peers with lived and living experience of addiction and/or mental illness who are considered to be at risk, this project seeks to examine the social and structural factors associated with cannabis use, the impact of such use on mental health, and the experiences these individuals have with support systems. The project aims to deepen our knowledge of the impacts of legalization on at-risk populations, along with the implications of both decriminalization and the reduction of stigma. In addition, it will develop a peer-led digital community of practice to support people who work in or are affected by the intersection of cannabis and mental health, through the sharing of evidence and resources. The project will be led by AAWEAR (Alberta Addicts Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly), an organization of peers with a history of substance use, who strive to improve the quality of life for those in the drug using community. Additional support will be provided by the Habitus Consulting Collective and a research committee of peers and academic and community partners.

Supporting Mothers Who Consume Cannabis in Ways That Work (Ontario)

Priority population: Mothers who use cannabis and health and social care providers 

Using deliberative dialogues, this project will synthesize knowledge about the perinatal and parenting experiences of women who consume cannabis in Ontario. This knowledge will then be mobilized through user-centred design approaches to develop practice and education tools that will strengthen front-line health and social services for this population. This inquiry will be carried out by researchers at McMaster University and women who consume cannabis, in collaboration with perinatal, mental health, and child welfare community stakeholders.

Understanding Immigrant, Refugee, Ethnocultural, and Racialized (IRER) Youth’s Experiences of the Relationship Between Cannabis Use and Mental Health Using an Experience-Based Co-Design Method (Ottawa, Ontario)

Priority population: Immigrant, refugee, ethnocultural, and racialized youth who use cannabis

This project seeks to explore how IRER youths experience access to and use of services related to cannabis and mental health, and the unique factors affecting use and outcomes. Results will inform how researchers can effectively understand and measure the prevalence of cannabis use among IRER youth. This research will be carried out by the Centre for Resilience and Social Development, the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, and a researcher with the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Cannabis and Mental Health in Marginalized Populations (Ottawa, Ontario)

Priority population: People living with mental illness who use (or have used) cannabis and who may be homeless, racialized, street-involved, and/or justice-involved, and may sell and/or buy street-level drugs and/or do sex work

Does cannabis make people more likely to suffer from mental illness, or are people with mental illness more likely to use cannabis to manage their symptoms? This project seeks to understand the directional nature of the relationship between cannabis use and mental illness by exploring why marginalized populations use or avoid cannabis. This project will be carried out by the University of Ottawa, the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, The Bridge Engagement Centre, the Social Planning Council of Ottawa, the Oasis program, Ottawa Community Housing, the Ottawa Community Foundation, and the AIDS Committee of Ottawa.

Impact of Cannabis Use on Drug Treatment Court Programs in Ontario

Priority population: People with lived experience who use cannabis and are justice-involved

Does cannabis use help or hinder a participant’s completion of a drug treatment court (DTC) program? This project will explore participant experiences and service-provider perceptions of cannabis use and the resulting impact on how clients are supported. It seeks to understand disproportionate impacts amongst women and racialized groups as well as the impacts of criminalization. The project will be led in partnership by the Canadian Mental Health Association (Ontario) and the John Howard Society of Ontario, with support from Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah (University of Toronto) and Ontario’s Provincial Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee, along with an extensive list of community-based services that support DTC-program participants in Ontario.

Understanding the Link between Cannabis Use and Mental Health: A Focus on the Experiences of Older Adults (Toronto, Ontario)

Priority population: Older adults with mental health concerns who use cannabis

The project seeks to identify and understand the factors contributing to cannabis use among seniors with mental health issues in Canada. This project will be carried out by the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly (Dr. Lynn McDonald), the National Institute on Ageing, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Baycrest Health Services, the Toronto Police Service, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, the University of Toronto, and CanAge (a seniors’ advocacy organization).

Picturing the Experiences and Perspectives of Cannabis Use by 2SLGBTQ+ Youth Living With a Mental Illness in Quebec (Montreal, Quebec)

Priority population: 2SLGBTQ+ youth with a history of mental illness who use cannabis

What are the current factors that influence cannabis use among 2SLGBTQ+ youth with a mental illness? This question will be answered through a photovoice project in which 2SLGBTQ+ youth will take and narrate their experiences of mental health and cannabis use to inform targeted health promotion and harm reduction programs. This research will be led by Olivier Ferlatte at the University of Montreal, in partnership with Rézo, the Association des intervenants en dépendance du Québec, and the B.C. Centre on Substance Use.

Indigenous-Led projects

Examining the Relationship between Cannabis and Mental Wellness among First Nations

Priority population: First Nations adults and youth living on-reserve and in Northern communities

The project will explore factors related to cannabis use and mental wellness in a First Nations context, including a review of existing survey data, a comprehensive literature review, and the development of indicators and recommendations for further research. This project will be carried out by the research unit of the First Nations Information Governance Centre, in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations.

Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Tyendinaga: Community-Based Research Projects in Cannabis and Mental Health (Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Ontario)

Priority population: First Nations who use cannabis

The project will explore the impact of cannabis on culture and wellness by understanding patterns of consumption in the community. Participants will be invited to share their stories about what it means to be Haudenosaunee and belong to the Tyendinaga Mohawk community; the cultural meaning of well-being and mental wellness; and the impact of cannabis on the community’s culture and individual and collective identities. This project will be carried out by the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and Queen’s University.

Addressing the Stigma of Parental Cannabis Use Among First Nations Through Community Engagement and Policy Review

Priority population: First Nations parents who use cannabis and experience wellness challenges

This project aims to explore patterns of parental cannabis use in relation to child apprehension and placement in care. Through discussions, the project will develop accessible prevention and harm reduction tools for use by First Nations, in addition to toolkits for social service organizations. This research will be carried out by the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation (Dr. Carol Hopkins), the Substance Use Research Group at Lakehead University (Dr. Christopher Mushquash), Dilico Anishinabek Family Care, and the First Peoples Wellness Circle, with the support of the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba, Inshiyuu Miyuupimatisiuun, and the Assembly of First Nations.

Unpacking Cannabis Use and Mental Health in Métis in Manitoba (Winnipeg, Manitoba)

Priority population: Métis of Manitoba who use cannabis

This project seeks to explore community perceptions about changes that may have occurred within the Métis population since the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Following key informant interviews and discussion groups, the project team will employ knowledge translation strategies to share the evidence generated to inform policy development. This project will be carried out by researchers from the Manitoba Métis Federation and the University of Manitoba.

Cannabis si koom la Michinn (Cannabis as Medicine) (Surrey, British Columbia)

Priority population: Métis of British Columbia who use cannabis

This project will explore patterns of cannabis use among Métis as well as barriers that exist to accessing cannabis for therapeutic use. This project intends to reduce stigma around cannabis use and help inform the development of a Métis Mental Health and Substance Use Framework and a Métis Harm Reduction Framework. Led by Métis Nation British Columbia and researchers at the University of British Columbia, the project is supported by British Columbia’s Interior Health Authority and Fraser Health.

Cannabis and Indigenous Mental Health: Lifting the Pipes (Calgary, Alberta)

Priority population: Indigenous Elders

In a social, cultural, and traditional context, how was cannabis understood prior to contact in relation to ceremony, natural law, and mental health within Indigenous communities? Through consultation circles focused on oral story collection, this project will explore the implications and potential benefits of cannabis as medicine toward healing. This project will be carried out by Mahegun Tails, Inc., in consultation with Elders and local and surrounding agency experts.

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