Learn Introducing the Workman Arts Award for Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy through Education Winners and Nominees

Published on June 29th, 2017 | from CAMH Education

Introducing the Workman Arts Award for Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy through Education Winners and Nominees

Last week we honoured educators at our Education Achievement Week Teachers’ Celebration Breakfast, which culminated in the presentation of the Workman Arts Award for Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy through Education. This year’s award honoured Workman Arts, which serves as a shining example of advocacy and education in action, and thereby makes a positive impact in the lives of many.

This year the award adjudicators (Ivan Silver, Latika Nirula, Jane Paterson, Janet Mawhinney, Scott Miller Berry, Andrew Johnson, Christopher Uranus) felt that the nominations were so strong that they wanted to provide two awards, one to an individual and one to a team.

Here’s a look at the winners and nominees.


Individual: Dr. Branka Agic

Branca Agic

L-R: Dr. Ivan Silver, Dr. Branca Agic (winner), Scott Miller Berry (Workman Arts) and Dr. Latika Nirula

Branka Agic’s advocacy for the mental health of refugees is linked to her own experiences fleeing Sarajevo during the Bosnian war. She believes, “the majority of refugees who experience trauma recover and do well in their new country if they receive adequate social support.” As the Manager, Health Equity, this belief is reflected in the Refugee Mental Health Project she was instrumental in creating. The project includes a self-directed online course, resource toolkit, webinar series, networking events, and Community of Practice for professionals who support refugees.  Since 2012, this online course—the first online course focused on refugee mental health in Canada—has been offered for free to thousands of service providers. In 2016, this project received federal funding, enabling the project to reach a national audience. Dr. Agic’s work exemplifies translation from research into leading educational and advocacy initiatives to address a crucial knowledge gap for service providers and fundamental need for services for marginalized communities.

Group: Forensic Early Intervention Service team

Forensic Early Intervention Service

The Forensic Early Intervention Service team, with Dr. Ivan Silver, Dr. Latika Nirula and Scott Miller Berry (Workman Arts)

In 2015, the Forensic Early Intervention Service (FEIS) started in Toronto South Detention Centre and expanded into the Vanier Correctional Centre for Women, responding to more than 2500 referrals to date. The team has built a partnership with corrections to meet the needs of individuals with mental health challenges in jail.

The FEIS team is impressive and distinct in their incredible commitment to challenging the stigma that individuals with mental health and addiction challenges experience in jail. Not only do they work with the individuals, but they are influencing system change. They are supporting vulnerable clients, educating jail and correctional staff and presenting their work locally, nationally and internationally. They have secured an international grant to work to implement a mental health strategy for individuals in jail with mental health and addiction challenges, which will ensure that their efforts and strategies have a far-reaching impact.

Other Nominees

  • LGUD2 team The Forensic General Unit D—also referred to as LGUD2—has found that the culture of teaching and learning is crucial because they have the ongoing challenge of developing therapeutic rapport with clients to help them to move forward with their recovery, while also continuously assessing for risk of re-offence. The LGUD2 meet this challenge by innovating ways to integrate care and education in their work. They have implemented a token economy on the unit geared to individual patients’ goals. They have implemented and are researching a self-paced training on Quality Behavioral Competencies for frontline staff and have also started to use and evaluate the impact of the SAPROF, a risk assessment of violence tool that assesses a patient’s protective factors. As educators and system capacity builders, the team has created an environment where students of all disciplines can focus on technical competencies and on interdisciplinary collaboration to help support patient recovery.
  • Office of Transformative Global Health team The Office of Transformative Global Health (OTGH) builds the capacity of local and global partners who serve marginalized communities in under-resourced and culturally diverse health settings. They make a positive difference in the lives of individuals affected by mental illness and substance use problems by designing and implementing innovative research studies in collaboration with a range of stakeholders, especially those with lived experience.The team’s commitment to advocacy is rooted in the principles of harm reduction, anti-stigma and human rights. Research projects in Canada, Peru, Chile and India advocate for full integration of individuals affected by mental illness in society by ensuring they receive quality support and care while being treated with dignity and respect. Innovative approaches to teaching and learning have provided opportunities for individuals with lived experience to play a key role in developing, facilitating, presenting and participating in trainings and workshops focused on strengthening the skills of primary healthcare providers to recognize and address stigma and discrimination in their own practice.
  • PMAB-R team The Prevention and Management of Aggressive Behaviour team—known as the PMAB-R team—has undergone a collaborative process of revising and piloting content and workshop delivery. Their approach has focused on the prevention of escalated behaviour through an emphasis on trauma-informed principles and using universal precautions to avoid triggering responses that could lead to escalation. They also sought to position escalation as fear versus pure aggression.  The engagement of peer recovery workers and others with lived experience in the design and co-facilitation of the revised course has been integral to the team’s success. Participants in the pilot have shared that “peer support workers sharing their stories is key—you can’t not have that—having someone share is very rich.”  This innovative education program has infused engagement and advocacy work as the core principles in guiding their curriculum design and training facilitation.
  • Service Users Educator Project team While people with lived experience of mental health and substance use challenges have been involved in the education of health professions trainees for more than a century as users of services in teaching hospitals and ambulatory clinics, their educational role has been limited. Service users are infrequently, if ever, given formal roles as educators. Since 2013, the Service User Educator team has been building a program that aims to promote fundamental changes in the culture of mental health professions by developing and investigating novel roles for people with lived experience as empowered educators. The team’s overall hypothesis is that bringing lived experience knowledge directly into mental health professional training—and bringing legitimacy to it by developing a new normal for professional training, one that is co-produced with service user educators—will enable learners to develop a broader and more hopeful understanding of mental health and substance use challenges and a more critical analysis of the roles of professionals in supporting recovery.

Congratulations and thanks to every one of you! 

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