Case Synopsis

Families are involved in the support of many people with mental health conditions. Support ranges from financial, housing, help with ADL (activities of daily living) etc. Families can also be useful sources of clinical information/history during inpatient treatment. Families generally want to be more involved in the care of their loved ones while they are in hospital.

Mental health literacy includes knowledge and information on access and evaluation related to mental health pathology/issues. This includes being able to assess and identify mental health pathology and symptoms. Increasing mental health literacy (and health literacy) among family members can lead to improved health outcomes in patients. It can also lead to better health among family members.

Families who support loved ones with mental health conditions can face caregiver burden. This can be related to the amount of physical and emotional resources required to deal with their loved ones. CAMH tries to address issues involving caregiver burden via peer support initiatives and training/workshops.

Peer support is a model that includes building relationships based on shared experiences. The peer support model includes ‘self-help’ initiatives and peer support groups.

The above issues faced by families should be brought together in a way that facilitates the families advocating for changes that involve them and their loved ones. Families need to be consulted to gather information on how to best address their needs, but their role should also be more participatory in nature.

Case Objectives

  1. Review and define the terms Health Literacy and Mental Health Literacy and how they apply to individuals and groups seeking to increase their health.
  2. Review the Peer Support model and Peer Support workers and discuss their role within healthcare.
  3. Review and discuss the role of families of mental health care patients/clients in providing support.
  4. Review and discuss the idea of ‘continuity of care’ and how families are involved in supporting patients over the long term.
  5. Review and discuss caregiver burden.
  6. Review and discuss the idea of families and patients being involved in healthcare in a decision-making capacity.

Case Study Questions

  1. How can families contribute to the care of individuals within the healthcare setting and within the community? What problems might this pose?
  2. Why is peer support of value? Attempt to research (online) a few examples of peer support. These do not have to be limited to mental health. Can you find examples of peer support workers?
  3. Is there any potential conflict that peer support workers might face in healthcare settings? (Consider how their roles might overlap with the responsibilities of other staff in healthcare settings.)
  4. How does health literacy and mental health literacy change the health of individuals? How would increasing the health literacy or mental health literacy of families affect the outcome of their loved ones? Discuss examples in your learning teams.
  5. Does CAMH have a responsibility to provide support for families to alleviate caregiver burden?


health literacy, mental health literacy, peer support, peer support worker, self-care, caregiver burden, mental health, community engagement

Additional Author Information

Burton Mohan, MD, MPH

Alexxa Abi-Jaoude, BHSc, MPH, Research Coordinator

Andrew Johnson, BA, Manager, Client and Family Education

David Wiljer, PhD, Senior Director, Transformational Education and Academic Advancement

Ava John-Baptiste, PhD, Assistant Professor



Recommended Citation

Mohan, B., et al. (2016). What Do We Do About the Families?. in: Terry, A.L. & John-Baptiste, A. [eds] Western Public Health Casebook 2016. London, ON: Public Health Casebook Publishing.