Patient/Public Partners join Maritime-wide project on COVID-19 and mental health

Patient/Public Partners join Maritime-wide project on COVID-19 and mental health

At its best, patient engagement is beneficial for researchers and patients—an opportunity for mutual growth.

This equally beneficial relationship has been especially fruitful for Cassidy Bradley, a Dalhousie University graduate. Her experience as an MSSU Patient Partner has been a catalyst for improving her own research skills as a master’s student in epidemiology and in medical school.

“This experience has brought such a unique depth to my educational experiences. It has been personally meaningful, fulfilling, educational, empowering, eye-opening, and enjoyable. I have met many wonderful colleagues and peers and I have been able to reflect on and learn a lot about my personal experiences as a patient.”

Cassidy recently joined three other Patient Partners on a research team for an interprovincial project studying the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic after being involved in a similar project in Nova Scotia. Motivated by her struggles with mental illness throughout the pandemic, Cassidy was determined to help others through patient engagement efforts.

“It was very clear to me that the pandemic had immense and widespread negative impacts on the mental health of so many people, and it was important to me to be involved in work that could begin to mitigate these effects.”

The research focused on characterizing unmet mental health need of Maritimers and the work was split into three stages: developing the protocol, analyzing the data, and writing a report. One of the lead researchers and MSSU staff, Dr. Sandra Magalhaes, said Patient Partners were engaged from the very beginning and were invited to be part of each stage.

“Involving patient partners in our research from the start was instrumental in helping to shape our understanding of experiences with mental health concern in the Maritimes and the focus of our research project.”

During the first meetings, researchers heard from Patient Partners about their own experiences with mental health and mental health care during and prior to the pandemic. Patient Partners shared both negative and positive stories that helped the researchers reflect on the data they had available, and to focus research efforts on themes that emerged from experience of Patient Partners.

“Throughout the entirety of the project, I felt included, heard, and valued. The team was very collaborative and open to continual learning, which I appreciated very much,” said Cassidy.

Her experiences have given her a new understanding of and appreciation for patient engagement that she will carry with her as she pursues her own medical career.

Patient/Public Partners join Maritime-wide project on COVID-19 and mental health