Prompted by concerns about inadequate services for the residents of long-term care facilities, the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health (CCSMH) was established during a National Symposium on “Gaps in Mental Health Services for Seniors in Long-term Care” in April 2002 hosted by the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry. The participants, who represented more than 65 organizations from across Canada, included national and provincial associations and government policymakers, consumers, service providers, educators, researchers and representatives from private industry.

The outcome of the symposium was overwhelming support to establish a national Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health to advocate for and promote seniors’ mental health. Founded in 2002, the CCSMH has two co-chairs from the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry and a steering committee of fourteen organizations representing healthcare providers, consumers, family and caregivers, and policy makers.

In 2004, the CCSMH hosted a two-day invitational workshop to identify and document a set of national research priorities for funding related to seniors’ mental health. There was unanimous agreement to create an online seniors’ mental health research and knowledge exchange network to connect people, ideas, and resources in the interest of research on seniors’ mental health.

In January 2005, funding was awarded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, Population Health Fund to lead and facilitate the development of evidence-based recommendations for best practice guidelines in areas of seniors’ mental health. This lead to the creation of Canada ’s first set of national, evidence-based guidelines that focus specifically on key areas in seniors’ mental health:

  • Assessment & Treatment of Delirium
  • Assessment & Treatment of Depression
  • Assessment & Treatment of Mental Health Issues in LTC Homes (with a focus on mood & behaviour)
  • Assessment of Suicide Risk and Prevention of Suicide

Over 11,500 hard copies of these guidelines have been disseminated across Canada and an additional 11,000 copies were downloaded from the website from over 40 countries. You can download copies of these guidelines at no charge. You can also download a summary of the guidelines published in the Canadian Journal of Geriatrics, 2006 (volume 9, supplement 2)

In 2007, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Population Health Fund contributed additional funding to further enhance dissemination of the guidelines and to define activities to implement and evaluate the CCSMH National Guidelines. Seven pilot projects were developed to implement the guidelines in a variety of settings across Canada.

In 2009, the CCSMH coordinated the collaboration of seven partner organizations to advance knowledge exchange in the field of seniors’ mental health and dementia. The Knowledge Exchange Think Tank Initiative represents Canadian partnerships to accelerate knowledge transfer to practice.

In January 2009 the CCSMH received funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada to create educational guides for seniors and their families of the four guideline topics in recognition of the fact that a user-friendly version would help to raise awareness of the issues of mental health and to empower seniors to ensure they receive the care they need. The four guides were released in April 2009 in English and French:

  • Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Care Homes: A Guide for Seniors and their Families
  • Suicide Prevention Among Older Adults: A Guide for Family Members
  • Depression in Older Adults: A Guide for Seniors and their Families
  • Delirium in Older Adults: A Guide for Seniors and their Families 

The Public Health Agency of Canada continued its commitment to the CCSMH with additional funding to capitalize on the momentum of the pilot projects and to do further work on the knowledge translation process involved in the pilots.

[Updated July 25, 2010]