Mental Health Awareness Week (May 6-12, 2024)

Compassion is More than Kindness; It’s Healing

Compassion is a powerful force. By channeling our empathy into small actions, we can collectively advocate for change that supports the rights of people who use/d substances.

Check out CMHA’s Mental Health Awareness Week.

Why is compassion crucial in research? 

  • Builds Trust: It breaks down barriers, fostering trust and encouraging engagement.
  • Reduces Stigma: By treating everyone with respect and dignity, we fight the stigma associated with substance use, creating a supportive environment where everyone feels seen and safe. 
  • Promotes Healing: Compassion in research research acknowledges the whole person. They are more than their struggles. It promotes agency and well-being, supporting not only physical recovery but also emotional, mental, and spiritual restoration.
  • Empowers: Through compassion, we empower those we serve, support their substance use goals and inspire them to contribute positively to their communities.
  • Supports Meaningful Engagement: Compassion motivates us to be flexible and accommodating in how we partner with communities and people with lived/living experience of substance use, encouraging us to ‘meet them where they are’ – an important principle to our work.

How can researchers integrate compassion into their work?

  • Directly address stigma: Rigorously evaluate all research documentation, knowledge translation materials and methods for any inherent stigma. It is important to note that without lived/living experience of substance use stigma, it will be difficult to effectively assess this yourself so be sure to consult with people who use/d substances. 
  • Implement Change: Use research findings to advocate for policies and programs that enhance the quality of life for people who use/d substances. This includes supporting evidence-based treatment options, improving access to care, and advocating for social and health policies that reduce harm and promote wellness, rather than punishment.
  • Respectfully recognize contributions: Plan with and for research participants and community contributions to research. Budget to pay PWLLE related to the research topic and from the community(ies) of interest for their time. Plan for culturally meaningful practices such as Indigenous ceremony, meals together and attending community events as part of the research design.
  • Participant-centered research designs: Design studies that are trauma-informed and culturally appropriate with the expertise, needs, vulnerabilities, potential experiences, and dignity of participants in mind.
  • Community-engagement: Partner and work with the communities involved in the research throughout the process to promote long lasting trust and relationships. Recognize the importance of knowledge translation – disseminate research findings in a way that is useful to the community through their guidance.
  • Inclusive methodologies: Involve participants from diverse backgrounds in the research process to ensure that findings are applicable to various populations, particularly equity-deserving groups. This could mean including participants of different races, economic backgrounds, sexes, genders, sexual orientation and ages to fully understand different experiences and outcomes.
  • Education & Training: Learn and be open to learning about all aspects of substance use. Attend cultural competency and trauma-informed training. Learn about harm reduction, treatment options and recovery. Search for opportunities, through PWLLE, community organizations, our research network, or our partners, to learn more. Ensure research staff receive the relevant preparations to carry out work in a safe and appropriate manner. 
  • Transparency & Accountability: Strive for transparency about the goals, processes, outcomes, risks and potential uses of the research. This upholds ethical research principles and builds trust and accountability.
  • Interactions with Participants: Recognize and acknowledge that participants may have had harmful and even traumatic experiences from past engagements in research. Be welcoming, take time to build mutual trust and learn about each other’s unique stories. Be aware of using language that is inclusive, destigmatizing and non-judgmental. Practice self-compassion – it increases our capacity to give it to others

Compassionate research goes beyond generating statistics. The evidence we produce can advocate for actionable changes alongside communities that support the wellbeing and rights of people with lived and living experience.

CRISM is committed to providing compassionate approaches to substance use research. We know it makes a real difference.