CHAMP: Community Champions HIV/AIDS Advocates Mobilization Project’s innovative design and groundbreaking method of engaging both the affected individuals/communities and community leaders from faith, media, social justice, and arts sectors have contributed to the development of important research addressing stigma of mental illness in Canada.

This summer, Josephine Wong and Kenneth Fung of the CHAMP research team were invited to exchange ideas on existing effective anti-stigma interventions with Sepali Guruge, professor and researcher at Ryerson University. Sepali was interested in researching stigma of mental illness in Asian communities. Their discussion led to four weeks of intensive proposal development for a national project – Reducing Stigma of Mental Illness Among Boys And Men In Asian Communities In Canada, which is an adapted replication of the CHAMP project design.

The national team of the Reducing Stigma of Mental Illness Study recently received $3 million over three years from the Movember Foundation. CHAMP’s pioneering work in stigma reduction through community mobilization was recognized in Ryerson University’s media release:

The project has drawn insights gained in HIV stigma reduction research by the Committee for Accessible AIDS Treatment in the CHAMP: Community Champions HIV Mobilization Project funded by CIHR and led by Alan Li of Regent Park Community Health Centre as well as Wong and Fung.

Josephine and Kenneth are co-principal investigators of this new study among others (see Ryerson media release). Josephine will co-lead with Sepali (nominated PI) the development of an empowerment education intervention to enhance participants’ skills and capacity to address stigma of mental illness. Kenneth will lead the development of a psychological intervention based on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), implemented in the CHAMP study by Kenneth and fellow CHAMP researcher Mateusz Zurowski.

The CHAMP team is delighted to contribute to stigma reduction research. “I think individuals and communities affected by HIV and mental illness share a lot in common in terms of stigma, discrimination, and systemic barriers,” said Kenneth. “Some are affected by both illnesses, but these two communities at large seldom work together or learn from each other.”

Josephine agreed, “It is very rewarding to see that the impact of CHAMP and CAAT’s work is going beyond the HIV communities to set new trends in CBR and mental health research.”

Alan Li, nominated PI of the CHAMP Study and Chair of CAAT’s Research Program, reflected on the development of CHAMP, “I think researchers and service providers have a lot to learn from the margin. When we listen to the voices of the affected communities and honor their lived experience, we will come out with innovation.”

Kenneth and Josephine will be taking the ACT intervention on the road to train project team members in Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. Congratulations to Sepali, Kenneth, Josephine, and their national research team for launching an important project to address stigma of mental illness. CAAT looks forward to ongoing dialogue and collaboration to create a stigma free world.