The Future of Mental Health


The Future of Mental Health: Using Futures and Foresight Thinking for a Post-COVID-19 Response

Over the last year, IAM and the Ontario College of Art and Design University CO (OCAD U CO) have been leading a foresight initiative with partners across Canada. Together, we have been exploring the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of Canadians, and what this will mean at a systems level, now and into the future. The report is now available:

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Overview: The Future of Mental Health Initiative
Our wellbeing is connected to so many other areas of our lives, from work, education, service and care, to more complex issues like food and income security, the safety of our children and elders, and the most vulnerable in our society. In the wake of COVID-19, so many of these areas have been compromised, which is having an impact on our mental health.

To address this, we need to respond not only to the immediate impact, but to how this pandemic will shape mental health in Canada for years to come. IAM, together with OCADU C O, is leading this work and inviting a diverse range of partners across the mental health space to join us. Using futures-foresight thinking, we are rethinking the ways our society’s mental health will shift and change in the future, into 2031, and where there are potential points of intervention that we can plan around today so we can optimize our outcomes tomorrow.

Why Future & Foresight Thinking?

We have an immediate need to rethink how we plan for the future of our mental health. We need new approaches to get ahead of our uncertain and ever-changing circumstances, and begin thinking about the ‘aftershocks’ of the COVID-19 crisis.                    

Futures literacy is a proven, evidence-based, methodology that allows us to work backwards from the future, not from our current place of urgency and reaction. Instead of predicting what this pandemic will mean for our mental health, through this initiative we are asking ourselves questions about what we don’t necessarily know and what we assume. We are trying to better understand the economic, technological, social and health challenges that lie in the future. By doing this, we can better envision the future and then begin to plan and make decisions for it.

Next Steps:

We hope this work will help our partners in mental health plan for the future, and to develop strategies and solutions for their respective organizations and communities. Beyond this, we also hope our readers see the potential for ‘calls to action’ in this report, and a second movement where together, we can consider opportunities for intervention and problem-solving.

Starting this fall, IAM will be creating a working group to continue this conversation with partners, and we invite anyone who intersects with mental health to join us. If you are interested, please contact us at [email protected] and we will keep you updated on next steps. In the meantime, we welcome your feedback, thoughts and ideas on this report, which you can email to us. Your insights are incredibly valuable to us.