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Thinking about Mental Health Promotion during Mental Illness Awareness Week

October 4-10 2015 marks Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). MIAW is a time to reflect on, and discuss, how mental illness and substance use disorders may have an impact on our lives and communities. Part of these discussions might focus on sharing personal experiences of struggle, hope and recovery. MIAW is also an important time to consider the central role that mental health plays in our lives.

Mental health is increasingly known as something more than the absence of mental illness. The Public Health Agency of Canada describes mental health as "the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity." In this way, mental health is a concept that relates to our ability to manage life in ways that help us cope with stressors and reach our goals. Just like our physical health, we all have mental health. Mental health also requires an inclusive environment where we feel safe and are accepted for our differences. A safe and inclusive environment creates space for us to feel good about ourselves so we can develop positive emotional, spiritual and mental health and reach our full potential. Mental health is something we can all work to promote in ourselves and in our communities.

The CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre recently created a video about mental health promotion. The Public Health Agency of Canada defines mental health promotion as “the process of enhancing the capacity of individuals and communities to take control over their lives and improve their mental health. By working to increase self-esteem, coping skills, social support and well-being in all individuals and communities, mental health promotion empowers people and communities to interact with their environments in ways that enhance emotional and spiritual strength. It is an approach that fosters individual resilience and promotes socially supportive environments”.



With this definition in mind, the video outlines the importance of promoting mental health in everyone, even those who may be struggling with mental illness or a substance use disorder. The video shares a fictional story about a woman named Tara who, despite having a diagnosis of mental illness, has good mental health. Although, Tara has been diagnosed with depression – a potentially severe mental illness - her illness is now under control. Tara is on medication and she sees her therapist regularly. She likes her job, feels capable of completing her work, and is able to eat right, sleep well and exercise. She feels comfortable and respected in the places where she lives and works and she feels like the people in her life love her and understand her. By enhancing individual well-being and creating conditions where individuals are safe and respected we can work to promote mental health for everyone.

For more information on MIAW, visit the CAMH MIAW Event Page where you can also learn about in-person and social media events to participate in this week!

You can also learn more about mental health promotion resources and the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre here: 



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