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New Directions in Seniors’ Mental Health September 24-25, 2007 . Reach Up, Reach Out! Developing and Sharing Best Practices in Mental Health Promotion for Culturally Diverse Seniors Melissa Lee-Ross September 24, 2007. Conflict of Interest .

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new directions in seniors mental health september 24 25 2007
New Directions in Seniors’ Mental HealthSeptember 24-25, 2007

Reach Up, Reach Out!

Developing and Sharing Best Practices in Mental Health Promotion for Culturally Diverse Seniors

Melissa Lee-Ross

September 24, 2007

conflict of interest
Conflict of Interest

Neither VON Canada nor the presenter hold any conflict of interest that may have a direct bearing on the subject matter of this presentation.

  • Background and Overview
  • Findings to date
  • Conclusions
  • Question and answer forum
von vision
VON Vision

Canada’s leading

charitable organization

addressing community

health and social needs.

von mission
VON Mission

VON, a charity, guided by the principles of primary health care, works in partnership with Canadians for a healthier society through:

  • Leadership in community based care
  • Delivery of innovative, comprehensive health and social services
  • Influence in the development of health and social policy
von across canada
VON Across Canada
  • 51 Branches with 16,000 staff and volunteers
  • Serving more than 1,300 communities
  • Providing more than 50 programs and services

Touching lives since 1897

culturally diverse seniors in canada
Culturally Diverse Seniors in Canada


  • 29% of individuals aged 65 to 74
  • 28% of those aged 75 to 84

Visible minorities:

  • Between 1981 and 2001, increased from 2.3% to 7.2%


  • 1% of the total Canadian senior population in 2001
  • Expected to grow more than two-fold by 2017 (Statistics Canada, 2005)
  • Age-associated changes in a person’s life make them vulnerable to mental health issues
  • Access barriers contribute to the lack of use of mental health care services by culturally diverse older adults:
  • stigma
  • lack of accurate diagnosis
  • language barriers
  • lack of understanding of traditional healing practices
  • lack of belief in the supernatural
project goal
Project Goal

To facilitate increased capacity of community organizations and volunteer networks to effectively respond to the mental health promotion needs of culturally diverse older adults relative to supportive networks and connections within the community.

partnerships and collaboration
Partnerships and Collaboration

National-level partners and collaborators* include:

  • Canadian Coalition for Seniors Mental Health
  • Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association
  • Canadian Association on Gerontology
  • Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada
  • Canadian Federation of Mental Health Nurses
  • National Association of Friendship Centres
  • Canada’s Association for the Fifty- Plus
  • Center for Addictions and Mental Health

*partial list

why do this work
Why do this work?
  • Existing programs and policy shaped by dominant culture, often excluding culturally diverse older adults.
  • Inclusion is a central component of positive mental health.
  • Need for a community level model to assist in developing culturally appropriate mental health promotion programs for seniors.
  • Need for support and training for service agencies around cultural competency (Seniors on the Margins, NACA, 2006)
what is mental health promotion mhp
What is mental health promotion (MHP)?
  • Mental health…is the capacity for each of us to feel, think and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face
  • Mental health promotion…is the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals and communities to take control over their lives and improve their mental health.

-PHAC, 2003

elements of mhp
Elements of MHP





coping skills

social support




social justice


personal dignity


Phase 1

Identify Best Practices

Phase 2

Develop Guidelines

  • Literature review
  • Environmental scan
  • Review of evidence
  • Telephone interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Draft report
  • Publish guide

Project Schedule and Deliverables

Phase 3

Pilot Guidelines

  • Implement guidelines
  • Deliver info sessions
  • Distribute guidelines

Project Schedule and Deliverables

Oct 2005 – Sept 2007

Oct 2007 – Mar 2008

April – Sept 2008

Funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Population Health Fund (Later Life Priority)

findings to date
Findings to Date


  • Familial obligations that prevent social participation outside the home (e.g. caring for grandchildren)
  • Lack of familiarity with community and services
  • Language barriers
  • Belief system not congruent with dominant culture
findings to date16
Findings to Date

MHP Needs:

  • Community openness
  • Community involvement
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Cultural competency
  • Awareness of language barriers
  • Innovative methods
findings to date17
Findings to Date

Emerging best practices:

  • Consult the community
  • Encourage family and community involvement
  • Tailor programs to reflect cultural demographic via participant feedback
  • Act as a resource broker
  • Be creative!

At this stage of the research, it is clear that in order for mental health promotion programs to be effective and responsive to culturally diverse older adults, community consultation and involvement is vital.

want to share find a resource
Want to share? Find a resource?
  • Join the Golden Age Information Exchange list serv
  • General forum for information, ideas, and questions around seniors' health and wellness and issues relating to cultural diversity
  • Subscribe at:
thank you
Melissa Lee-Ross BSW, RSW Project Coordinator

VON Canada Direct Line: (902) 674-0913 Toll Free: (866) 777-7412 Fax: (902) 674-0919

Visit us at:

Thank You!