Standardized measurement instruments

This section of the toolkit presents the recommendations of the committee of experts on the standardized measurement instruments that allow for the evaluation, by means of population-based surveys, of post-disaster mental health status.

The recommendations are mainly intended for professionals who wish to assess the mental health status of a population by means of surveys. The recommendations take into account the interveners’ current context in the health network, i.e. sometimes limited financial and human resources and the wide range of topics to be included in such surveys. It is, therefore, often very difficult for the interveners to reproduce or reuse certain questions from the major surveys of the Institut de la statistique du Québec (ISQ) or Statistics Canada, given the length of the questionnaires or the conditions of use of certain instruments (training, cost, and so on).

This section of the toolkit presents a list of standardized measurement instruments that satisfy the needs of interveners in the health network and researchers. A committee of experts was established to pinpoint and recommend the standardized instruments. The committee, chaired by Dr. Pierre Gosselin and coordinated by Magalie Canuel from the INPSQ, comprised three experts in the realm of mental health or population-based mental health surveillance, i.e. Dr. Alain Brunet (Douglas Mental Health University Institute), Dr. Arnaud Duhoux (Université de Montréal) and Dr. Alain Lesage (INSPQ). The instruments identified should be validated, available free of charge, encompass a succinct number of items and be accompanied by an interpretation guide. Accordingly, the instruments proposed are not necessarily the same as those used in major surveys.

The following selection and evaluation criteria were applied to the instruments:

  • instruments in the public domain or protected by copyright but without charge;
  • instruments written in or translated into French;
  • instruments that use a self-report questionnaire;
  • a small number of items (or short administration period of the questionnaire);
  • the sound metrological quality of the French and English versions;
  • a validated French version;
  • ease of use and interpretation by non-experts, e.g. the presence of threshold scores for interpretation;
  • the availability of reference data for comparison purposes.

Appendix 3 describes in detail the methodology used to select the standardized instruments.


A standardized measurement instrument is a rigorously developed tool that measures a concept (or an indicator) in an objective, standardized manner. It can be defined as a series of self-reported questions or items used to measure a concept. The response categories to an item are usually in the same format, often in the form of a numbered scale. The items measuring a concept form a scale in respect of which a quantified score is obtained, often by adding the results or with a more or less complex weighting system. The scores on the scale can subsequently be converted into a norm in order to facilitate interpretation. The instruments must undergo rigorous validation stages and the information on psychometric properties such as test-retest reliability, internal coherence, specificity and sensitivity must be determined and made available (Streiner, Norman, and Cairney, 2015).

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