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Swimming Upstream: A Mental Health (Promotion!) Strategy for Canada

 By Tamar Meyer, CAMH Resource Centre

 

This week, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), chaired by CAMH’s Senior Medical Advisor, Dr. David Goldbloom, released Canada’s first National mental health strategy called Changing Directions, Changing Lives. Released during National Mental Health Week, the Strategy is the first of its kind in Canada.  Did you know that prior to the release of this Strategy, Canada was the only G7 country without a national strategy on mental health?

This 6-pronged strategy makes 106 recommendations that cover not only health care but social determinants of health and issues like affordable housing and the justice system; focuses on health equity by underscoring disparities and diversity; addresses the role of poverty and racism; and highlight priority populations like youth, minority official language communities, older adults, immigrants, refugees, ethnocultural and racialized populations, First Nations, Inuit and Métis and northern and remote populations.

“It is important that, in promoting mental well-being and reducing risk factors for every­one, we do whatever we can to reduce the gap between those who are thriving and those whose mental health is most at risk.” - p. 21

Mental health promotion figures prominently in the report and is highlighted in the forefront as Strategic Direction 1. The Strategy underscores that mental health promotion needs to occur across the lifespan and in a wide range of settings including schools, community organizations and workplaces. Mental health promotion efforts should include raising awareness on how to promote mental health, prevent mental illness and reduce stigma, and is most effective through initiatives that target specific groups and settings. 

Strategic Direction 1: "Promote mental health across the lifespan in homes, schools, and workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible.” - p.20

Beyond the first Strategic Direction, it is encouraging to see that mental health promotion is interwoven throughout the entire Strategy resulting in recommendations for action that directly correspond to the main determinants of mental health including: social inclusion and connectedness (see recommendations for action 1.4.2, 3.4.1); violence and discrimination (4.5.3., 5.4.3), and access to economic resources (2.2.1., 2.3.1., 3.5.3).

The CAMH Resource Centre is a great source for additional information and resources. It has hosted a series of mental health promotion webinars to better equip health promotion and public health audiences in Ontario.  These webinars include: 

- Introduction to promoting positive mental health  (slides, resources)

- Mental health promotion in action: reflections from Northern Ontario (slides, recording)

- Introduction à la promotion de la santé mentale positive (slides)

- Promoting positive mental health for immigrants and refugees (slides)

- Promoting mental health in public health (slides, recording)

- Health promotion programming for older adults: mental health, gambling, substance and alcohol misuse (slides, recording)

In addition, there are a number of different mental health promotion tools and resources.  Please visit the mental health promotion resources section of HC Link for more information. 

 

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