The objective of the feasibility study on literacy and mental health was to enable literacy and mental health agencies to develop strategies to help adults who have serious mental illness, as well as literacy needs, to integrate more successfully into the community as learners, citizens, parents, workers and volunteers. There were two parts to the study; a literature review and focus groups or interviews with clients with mental illness, mental health workers and literacy workers.
The Project Coordinator completed the study under the guidance and direction of the Literacy and Mental Health Working Group. We would like to express our appreciation for all their support. A list of the working group members is included at the end of the report. This project was made possible by a grant from The Ontario Trillium Foundation and OCCL would like to express our sincere gratitude to them.
Eighteen clients with mental illness took part. Some were already attending literacy programs; others were clients of an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team.
Thirty-six mental health workers from ACT teams, the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and Canadian Mental Health Association participated. They came from various disciplines and positions including psychiatrists, occupational therapists, mental health counsellors, social workers, case managers, team managers, nurses, housing outreach workers, recreational therapists and dual diagnosis brokers.
Twelve adult literacy coordinators, instructors and volunteers participated.
Most participants took part in focus groups but some individual interviews were conducted and some participants completed questionnaires online. Participants were given a copy of their responses and asked to confirm the accuracy of the content and make changes or additions. The information was recorded in a database and then analyzed.
The responses from the three groups: clients, mental health workers and literacy staff were all very consistent and clearly defined issues and possible solutions. Current practices and suggestions which constitute best practices are included in the full report.
Mental health workers said that an average of 50% of their clients had literacy issues. Of these, over half could function in a literacy group; more in a one-on-one setting.
Once the information had been analyzed, it was presented to the Literacy and Mental Health Working Group. This group had two meetings with the Project Coordinator to discuss the findings and develop 11 recommendations. The group will continue to meet to work on the recommendations and determine the next steps. This work will be reflected in future Literacy Service Plans developed by the Ottawa Community Coalition for Literacy.