The Future of Mental Health: A Strategic Foresight Study

Submitted by the Institute for Advancements in Mental Health (IAM) and OCAD U CO

“In this time of profound and ongoing uncertainty, our objective has been to better understand the shifting mental health system in Canada through a collective and creative approach.”

– The Future of Mental Health, P. 8

The COVID-19 pandemic could be described as, what scholar Nassim Nicholas Taleb calls, a ‘black swan event’. Highly unexpected and highly impactful, Canadians are still struggling to conceptualize it effectively, and there is no doubt that it has, and will continue to have, profound and as yet unmeasured effects across all facets of life.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted what was already known about the mental health care system in Canada: it is inadequately resourced, organizationally fragmented and siloed, and faces consistently increasing demand across all sectors.

If we were going to plan for the future of mental health in Canada then we needed to look beyond today and into the future.”

– Mary Alberti, Chief Executive Officer, IAM
The Future of Mental Health, P. 3

In light of this, and anticipating the profound impacts within and beyond the health system shaped and exacerbated by the pandemic, the report examines possible responses to the increasingly urgent and complex mental health needs of Canadians.

Using a strategic foresight-driven approach, we explored the pandemic’s current and future impacts on mental health in Canada. This has enabled us to speculate on how mental health organizations and individual Canadians might be affected in the future, and reveals areas of opportunity to improve the system’s preparedness and resilience moving forward.

“The recent surge in federal and provincial funding for mental health research, digital services, and community programs indicate a recognition of the urgent need for expanded mental health care. However, there are concerns that funding is not driven by data or directed to the areas or services where it is critically needed.”

– The Future of Mental Health, P. 18

New paradigms present new problems which require new approaches, and uncertain futures require creative consideration. The complex and interconnected challenges emerging from the pandemic require coherent, collective and innovative responses and approaches. The pandemic has made clear that the future of mental health in Canada is not only a ‘health’ issue, it is a societal issue.

Click here to read the report, The Future of Mental Health: A Strategic Foresight Study.


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