“What does it feel like to seek mental health and addictions services?”

Client: Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington

Project: Designing Better

Timeline: June 2015-April 2016

Project Services: Design Research, Service Design

The Challenge:

In a year, addictions and mental health issues affect 1 in 5 Canadians. Once people make the decision to seek care, the experience of accessing service can be tough. It's harder when you face long wait times, and have to interact with lots of individual services to meet your different needs.

Recognizing the potential for a better addictions and mental health system in Waterloo Wellington, the Canadian Mental Health Association of Waterloo Wellington (CMHA WW) started asking: "What if we designed a care system by starting with people? How might we improve services if we deeply understood people's needs, experiences, and lives?"

The Outcomes:

CMHA WW committed to developing a comprehensive approach to services, with an understanding of user experiences both during service and in life outside of services. Overlap and CMHA WW conducted over 100 hours of engagement activities to learn deeply about the experiences of 12 users.

Across the board, service users identified the need for—and lack of—dignity in their experience of accessing care. From this critical finding, Overlap and CMHA WW developed a Service Standard called “Dignity by Default,” a set of criteria to ensure that service users and their families are engaged, involved, and treated with dignity throughout their care—and that care systems remain flexible and responsive to user needs and feedback.

Additionally, Overlap and CMHA WW created Experience Patterns, guidelines on building an experience of addictions and mental health services centred on respect and responding to real needs.

Overlap and CMHA WW built prototypes of these concepts and tested them with the public, establishing next steps based on invaluable public feedback. At the conclusion of the project, CMHA WW proposed to design and implement Act As One Service in each of the sub-LHINs.

 “When you’ve involved the people who are going to use your service right from the beginning, implementation is so much easier because they are already excited, already engaged, already on board—and we found that they take off with the service as opposed to us needing to launch it.”

- Heather Kerr, Executive Director, Stonehenge Therapeutic Community