SSC Environmental Scan Report

The Schizophrenia Society Environmental Scan Project

Chris Summerville
CEO, Schizophrenia Society of Canada

The Schizophrenia Society of Canada (SSC) is a national not-for-profit mental health agency in operation since 1979. It has focused on improving the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia and psychosis through education, support programs, public policy, and research. Its activities are supported through a combination of donation and project grants. The SSC is a recognized leader in the development of education resources, guides, and tools to broaden understanding of schizophrenia and psychotic illnesses, and in promoting recovery and management of the illness from a personal and family perspective. While the SSC seeks to work in collaboration with the provincial schizophrenia societies on projects and initiatives, each provincial organization is a separately incorporated not-for-profit Canadian registered charity providing information, support, and services at the provincial and regional level. The participation of the provincial leadership within the SSC Board of Directors ensures an ongoing understanding of issues across the country to inform its actions and facilitates opportunities for positive collaboration on shared priorities.

Undertaking an Environmental Scan:

The profile and visibility of mental health in Canada is rapidly growing. Many new players and diverse voices are changing the conversation around mental illnesses and mental health. More attention is being paid to public education on mental illness leading to broader public acceptance. At the same time the SSC is faced with declining revenues and falling membership.

In response, the SSC Senior staff and board are considering what changes are required to respond to emerging trends and to increase its value and relevance in a changing context. Through undertaking a high-level document review and actively engaging internal and external stakeholders, the SSC can identify trends and better assess its strength, identify opportunities, understand potential weaknesses or possible threats. It can then set targeted goals that are responsive to emerging trends that will have meaningful impact on improving quality of life and build on potential partnerships and opportunities in the sector.

Environmental scans are an important part of strategic planning process providing an assessment of internal and external factors which may affect an organization's ability to deliver its mandate. Guided by an Advisory Group, Neasa Martins and Associates was engaged to undertake a broad environmental scan that included:

  1. A review of the emerging trends in fundraising and a high-level scan of the research on changing trends in the framing of schizophrenia and psychosis, treatment, and management approaches.
  2. Internal and external stakeholder interviews to identify SSC's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats and to identify important trends to pay attention to.
  3. On-line survey building on the findings of steps one and two was created to open up input from the broader community in guiding SSC and to gauge support for a shift in focus to broaden its messaging and build a more inclusive resource.
  4. Summary presentations were delivered to the SSC Board of Directors at the end of each engagement process to build a shared understanding and ensure the steps taken aligned with the desired impact.
  5. An Advisory Committee was established as a small reference group of SCC leaders including people living with schizophrenia was undertaken to ensure an understanding of issues and that the proposed direction would align with desired results. We are thankful for the support and guidance of the Advisory Group of selected leaders within the SSC. Thanks to Joan Baylis, Florence Budden, Laura Burke, Julia Gajewski-Noel, Elizabeth Anderson, and Anita Hopfauf for their wise counsel.

Background Context

Core to the Schizophrenia Society of Canada's mandate is educating the public on the causes as well as best and promising practices in the treatment of schizophrenia and psychosis. The goal of education is to improve quality of life, enhance social inclusion and reduce stigma and discrimination. The Society also focuses on encourage research to improve outcomes and ensure equitable access to effective treatments. The SSC provides information and tools that help people living with schizophrenia and psychosis and their caregivers to better understand what is happening and what they can do to manage their condition. The move to broaden inclusion of psychosis as part of its mandate opens up new possibilities for expanding its focus and increasing its membership. Through its environmental scan tracking changes in research and identifying emerging approaches to support and treatment is seen as valued role. Significant changes in the way we understand schizophrenia and psychosis requires a more nuanced message being provided to the public. The SSC can help to reflect the emerging research, challenge pessimistic beliefs about chronicity, advocate for the full complement of medical, psychological, social and recovery enhancing supports and services, and advocate to strengthen the social inclusion of people living with schizophrenia and psychosis.

The Future is Now: Re-imaging the Schizophrenia Society of Canada presentation summarizes the direction emerging from this environmental scan and is delivered as a PowerPoint presentation with accompanying speaker's notes. This presentation reflects the 'voice' of the SSC as re-imagined through the adoption of the key messages emerging from the Environmental Scan.

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