Engage Initiative Mission

People with mental illness are often NOT seen. Being invisible contributes to dying earlier and more frequently from cancer. We need to open our eyes and work together to bridge the divide between cancer and mental illness to save lives and decrease suffering. We are building a community network that engages diverse voices to promote equity in cancer care and research. We commit to:

  1.  Make mental illness visible through education and advocacy
  2. Increase access to timely, high quality, integrated mental illness and cancer care
  3. Improve the cancer care experience and health outcomes for individuals with mental illness and their caregivers
  4. Conduct and disseminate research that matters to patients, caregivers, and clinicians
  5. Improve our healthcare system through targeted policy change

A New Care Model for Patients with Cancer and Serious Mental Illness

In 2016, the Collaborative Care and Community Engagement Program (ENGAGE) conducted the first-of-its-kind pilot study of a person-centered, team-based approach to cancer care for patients with schizophrenia and cancer. The approach was informed by the collaborative care model and personalized to address the specific challenge of cancer and mental illness as follows:

  • Person-centered care: Identifying goals and providing continuity across settings
  • Screening: Identifying patients at cancer diagnosis, maintaining population-based registry
  • Co-management: Partnering with the oncologist to adapt the cancer treatment plan
  • Interdisciplinary team: Psychiatry, Oncology, Social Work, Community- Based Clinicians
  • Collaboration across systems: Bridging oncology and community mental illness.

A Caregiver’s Story: Kelly Grill


“We are going to stand in the light, and lean toward joy. That was our mantra… It was the first time I felt validated, and everything changed.” ~ Kelly Grill; Family Caregiver & Director at Hopkinton Center for the Arts

Learn more about the Bridging the Divide Symposium

Addressing an Unmet Need

Individuals with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder die nearly 30 years earlier than the general population, and cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death among this group. People with serious mental illness are:

  • more than twice as likely to die from cancer,
  • less likely to receive timely, high quality cancer care, and
  • more likely to be excluded from clinical trials.

Access to early, integrated psychiatric care may improve cancer treatment for patients with mental illness.

Get Involved

“I wish there were more resources for myself as her caregiver – to know I wasn’t alone and to ease my mind so I wasn’t always worried about everything happening with her.”~ Kelly Grill