Helping those living with severe mental illness regain their independence through supporting housing is part of a first-of-its-kind research project at the Lawson Health Research Institute.

Paula Rawlinson knows first-hand the importance of housing and independent living for those suffering with severe mental illness, because a close family member of hers has struggled with mental illness and homelessness.

“There’s just not enough supports out there for people, and it is worse now than years and years ago, so supportive housing is key.”

Dr. Cheryl Forchuk, assistance scientific director at Lawson Health Research Institute, agrees.

“We have people in hospital who can’t get out because they can’t get the right combination of housing and supports.”

Forchuk's research team is testing smart technologies - with the help of the Canadian Mental Health Association and London and Middlesex Community Housing - to support people with severe mental illness with the hopes of helping them live independently.

Eight housing units will be equipped with smart technologiss like a medication dispensing machine, smart phones, touch screen monitors and smart monitoring devices, so that participants can access a variety of care at their fingertips and in their homes.

It's something Rawlinson says could make a big difference, “You want to maintain those skills and this gives you a sense of pride to be able to take care of yourself.”

The study will take about 18 months to complete and Forchuk says the hopes are to be able to roll our smart home technology in a larger capacity moving forward.

“So we can help people with mental illness and severe mental illness to live successfully in the community with the maximum independence possible.”