Advancing mental health care research in Canada

AUTHOR(S) & CREDENTIALS: Amika Shah, PhD Candidate at the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation at the University of Toronto, and Karolina Jalowska, Digital Media Coordinator at the APPTA hub and AGE-WELL NCE


Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m a fourth-year PhD Candidate at the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation at the University of Toronto studying Health Informatics. My research at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation explores how we can develop entirely digital service delivery models for mental health care. I completed my Master’s in Addictions and Mental Health from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and have worked previously in a variety of community-based organizations in the area of mental health promotion.

As one of AGE-WELL & APPTA’s 2021-2022 Policy Challenge participants, can you tell us about the policy challenge question you’re looking to explore?

As part of the AGE-WELL & APPTA Policy Challenge, I have been addressing the question: How can the government rapidly increase access to mental health and addictions supports for older adults? As the circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic have necessitated that we access healthcare remotely, I am investigating how older adults been considered in the shift to digital mental health care, and what changes are needed to improve access to care for this population. Through my research, I expect to understand the barriers and facilitators of access to digital mental health supports for older adults amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as recommendations to address these barriers.

What message do you have for this year’s Bell Let’s Talk Day?

Just as we have needed to apply public health strategies to have a widespread impact on physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic, I hope we can similarly recognize the importance of a public health approach to supporting the mental health of our communities. While access to quality mental health care (e.g., psychological and psychiatric services) is an important part of such an approach, so too are attending to more structural factors such as the social determinants of health and the environments in which we live, work, and learn.