About the Project

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario, the Ontario Peer Development Initiative (OPDI), and the Provincial Consumer/Survivor LHIN Leads Network (PCSLL) collaborated on a two-year project (2010-2012) to provide diabetes competency training for mental health peer support workers.

Project Goals

  • Increase the skills of mental health peer support workers in providing support for the prevention and self-management of diabetes in the high-risk population of people living with a serious mental illness
  • Increase awareness in the diabetes community of the role mental health peer support workers can play in prevention and self-management support

Project Rationale

Among the many health problems facing people with serious mental illness, the high risk of diabetes is well-documented. Diabetes is not only more prevalent in the population of people living with serious mental illnesses but also under-diagnosed and under-treated. Rates of diabetes are two to four times greater than the general population and studies have found a 25 to 33 percent incidence of previously undiagnosed pre-diabetes and diabetes in community-based cohorts, as well as higher rates of complications developing earlier in the course of the illness. Both depression and schizophrenia are risk factors for the development of type 2 diabetes. (For more information, see “Diabetes and Serious Mental Illness: Future Directions for Ontario — A Report from the March 30, 2009 Think Tank on Diabetes and Serious Mental Illness,” April 30, 2009, at www.ontario.cmha.ca/diabetes.)

Supporting people living with diabetes to manage their own illness and improve their health is one of the key features of chronic disease prevention and management. Self-management support goes beyond education to providing people with the skills, tools and confidence they need to take control of their illness and make positive changes in their lives.

Project Approach

This project applied mental health consumer/survivor expertise in peer support for self-management of mental illness to support for self-management and prevention of diabetes. Mental health peer support is a long-established best practice recognized in Canada. In Ontario, consumer/survivor initiatives (CSIs) have been providing peer support to improve the quality of life for people with lived experience of mental health problems since 1991. Mental health peer support workers — who share the experience of living with a mental health problem, though they may not share the experience of living with diabetes — are ideally situated to support their peers to understand their risk of developing diabetes, to learn and practice prevention strategies, and to self-manage diabetes.

A Peer Supporter Diabetes and Mental Health Training Module was developed and pilot tested by peer support trainers across Ontario. The module builds on a mental health peer support worker core skills training program previously developed by OPDI. An evaluation of the training and diabetes module and its application in the field were carried out by Cheryl Forchuk, Lawson Health Research Institute. The diabetes training module was then revised and distributed provincially as a stand-alone resource for training mental health peer support workers delivering peer support in any setting.

The project also provided education to the diabetes sector about the existing mental health peer support resources and infrastructure (consumer/survivor initiatives) in Ontario that can be mobilized to address diabetes. A project advisory committee — including representatives from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Local Health Integration Networks, Family Health Teams, Community Health Centres, Canadian Diabetes Association, community mental health service providers and other stakeholders — was created to guide the knowledge exchange strategy.

Project Partners

  • Ontario Peer Development Initiative
  • Provincial Consumer/Survivor LHIN Leads Network
  • Christine Grace and Community
  • Lawson Health Research Institute
  • Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario

» Find our more About the Partners

Project Sponsor

This project was generously supported by The Lawson Foundation.