Welcome to HC Link's blog! Our blog will provide you with useful information on health promotion topics, news, and resources, as well as information on HC Link’s events, activities, and resources. Our bloggers include HC Link staff and consultants, as well as our partnering organizations, clients, and experts in the health promotion field. Please note: opinions in posts are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of HC Link or our funder.

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Thanks to everyone who participated in this online conversation - lots of ideas and valuable information was shared about how the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) can improve life in Ontario, and how organizations, health centres, municipalities, etc., can use the CIW in their work.

Day 1 of this discussion took place right here on our HC Link blog. There was a lot of engagement and openness to share, with 116 comments! You can read through all of the questions and ideas shared on the comment section of our blog (a transcript for easier reading will be made available shortly).

Day 2 of this discussion took place online through Adobe Connect and teleconference, as we thought this platform would provide a more focused and attractive learning experience, given the high volume of comments and discussions. The recording of this discussion is available here.

Highlights from the two days will be shared shortly on under the Conversations Tab.

This discussion was one of the first to come from AOHC's discussion paper: Measuring What Matters: How the Canadian Index of Wellbeing can improve quality of life in Ontario, and we hope that this dialogue continues. Resources and links shared will be posted shortly on the HC Link website:

Please feel free to post comments and continue this discussion on our HC Link blog.


On April 15th and 16th, HC Link hosted the blog discussion "How can the CIW improve quality of life in Ontario?" led by AOHC.

This blog discussion was based upon AOHC's newly released discussion paper: Measuring What Matters: How the Canadian Index of Wellbeing can improve quality of life in Ontario.

measuring what matters

The paper outlines the ways the index's framework can be applied at the provincial, regional and local level to improve health and wellbeing. It also offers details about how the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) is already being put into action by municipal governments, funders and a significant number of Ontario's Community Health Centres.

The paper's release and the province-wide conversation about the CIW that AOHC hopes to start, is timely: on April 29, with the generous support of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the CIW will be releasing its first Ontario composite index report. Tracking back to 1994, the report will provide baseline data with respect to all eight quality of life domains the CIW tracks. There will also be a single number that will indicate whether quality of life is better or worse overall in Ontario, since 1994.

The information offered in this paper, about how the CIW can be applied, is relevant to a wide range of players: frontline service providers, provincial and professional associations, Local Health Integration Networks, municipalities, the justice system, non-governmental organizations, public servants, political and opinion leaders, and people that are interested in the wellbeing of communities.

AOHC is inviting each of these audiences to review the paper and consider its central idea: that the CIW can serve as a powerful tool to kick start a more effective community health and wellbeing movement in Ontario.

Community Health and Wellbeing experts will be ready to answer your questions and hear your input on April 15th and 16th from 12-1pm.

Community Health and Wellbeing experts:

Margo Hilbrecht, Associate Director of Research, Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW)
Linda McKessock, Project Manager, Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW)
Cate Melito, Executive Director, Woodstock and Area Community Health Centre – CIW Pilot project
Mary MacNutt, Policy & Communications, Association of Ontario Health Centres
Gary Machan, Community Facilitator, AOHC - CIW pilot project
Louise Daw, Project Manager, Guelph Wellbeing, City of Guelph

To join the conversation, please enter a new comment (under "Leave your comment"), or reply directly to a comment (click "reply"). (tip- remember to keep refreshing your page to see the latest comments!) Also- please note that due to the number of comments - there are multiple pages of comments (please click next to see all of the pages). Also, when you enter a comment, please only enter your NAME (and email if you wish). There are technical difficulties arising when usernames are entered.

Postings are viewed as personal contributions, and do not reflect the positions of employers. Postings may be made anonymously - you may provide a name, pseudonym or initials. Please note that email addresses will not be made public.

Here are some questions to start the conversation:

  • What's your take on the potential of the CIW to improve health and wellbeing? How might it be applied to the challenges you or your organization are trying to address?
  • If you are already applying the CIW framework in your organization or community, and we haven't mentioned it in our paper, can you share this idea with us? And how would you like to "connect the dots" between what you are doing and other nearby regions or the province as whole?
  • Do you have an idea for a new way to use the CIW?
  • The CIW framework is constantly evolving and improving. Going forward, how could it be adapted or improved to be applied in different settings?
  • What are some of the ways we could all work together to build CIW communities of practice, at local, regional and the provincial level?
  • What can be done at the local, regional level to get ready for the release of the forthcoming CIW Ontario composite report?
  • Working together, can we use the CIW to build a strong effective community health and wellbeing movement in Ontario?

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Local community need is a major driver of public health and health promotion activities. And, data often paints the picture of local needs. When it comes to mental health promotion, data is not always readily available. The CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre in partnership with Public Health Ontario and Ottawa Public Health recently explored this topic through a webinar.

Tamar Jacqueline Ben<style="font-size: 8pt;"="">Jacqueline Willmore (Ottawa Public Health), Ben Leikin (Ottawa Public Health) and Tamar Meyer (CAMH HPRC)

This webinar called Mental Health Data for Health Promotion: Finding it, Using it took a look at relevant population health, surveillance, and other data that can be used to inform, and respond to, local mental health needs in health promotion settings. From Public Health Ontario's Analytic Services, Jeremy Herring and Karin Hohenadel provided an overview of the provincial data landscape showcasing potential data sets that public health and health promotion practitioners may access for mental health related programming. This provincial snap shot was then complemented by Ottawa Public Health's presenters, Ben Leikin and Jacqueline Willmore, who provided examples of how their health unit has utilized national, provincial and local data sets to inform mental health related programming. Monica Nunes and Linda Yoo from the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre also shared information on data sets that are prepared by CAMH such the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, the CAMH Monitor and DATIS.

Throughout, presenters acknowledged some of the limitations and challenges in accessing data to address mental health in health promotion settings. One particular data gap is the tendency of available data to focus on the burden of mental illness and indicators related to treatment and mental illness rather than positive mental health.

Innovative solutions for linking available data to mental health related activities were also identified. In particular, webinar participants found the visual infographics presented by Ottawa Public Health and Public Health Ontario to share data on mental health in a more user friendly format particularly helpful. Public Health Ontario will soon launch a new mental health primer infographic in the coming days. And, you can check out Ottawa Public Health's various infographics here on their website.

A recording of this webinar is available here. And you can download the presentation slides from the webinar here.

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Spirit to Spirit, a webinar series developed by the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre in partnership with CAMH's Aboriginal Community Engagement concluded recently. This series looked at considerations for health promotion and prevention practitioners when they are thinking about sharing knowledge for health promotion with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis (FNIM) peoples particularly in the areas of mental health and substance use.

Part one of this webinar series, Foundations and Context, provided recommendations for effective engagement of FNIM communities and individuals with a focus on making change, social action and addressing stigma.

Part two, Learning from Practice, comprised a panel discussion with community partners. This webinar began with an introduction from the Manager of Aboriginal Community Engagement at CAMH, Renee Linklater who introduced the panel of presenters. Then, each presenter provided a unique perspective on important considerations for sharing knowledge with FNIM populations.


Lisa Beedie (Cancer Care Ontario) spoke from her experience with the Aboriginal Tobacco Program. Lisa powerfully noted that reclaiming health is an act of self-determination. To this end, Lisa shared that in her practice to support smoking cessation efforts, rather than enforcing a certain behavior with community members, she shares information to enable those she works with to arrive at their own health decisions.

Next, Dr. Claire Crooks (CAMH Centre for Prevention Science) highlighted a few ways that the Fourth R, youth relationship and resiliency building program, has been adapted to be more culturally relevant to FNIM youth. In discussing the Fourth R, an evidence-based intervention, Claire commented that as practitioners we must expand our notion of evidence to ensure that methods of research and evaluation are appropriate and empowering for participating FNIM programs and communities.

Finally, Laura Calmwind (Chiefs of Ontario) spoke about her youth engagement work with indigenous youth. She characterized these activities as a rights based approach where youth are seen as rights holders with the capacity to empower themselves. As an example of this practice, Laura described how youth influenced modifications to the suicide prevention activities they were involved with. Namely, youth participants saw the language of suicide prevention as limited and renamed these activities to be life promotion activities, reflecting a more hopeful, empowering and positive approach.

You can view the webinar Spirit to Spirit – Learning from Practice here:
and the slides here:

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

Bob Gardner, Director of Policy at the Wellesley Institute, sat down to chat with us about collaboration at our 2013 conference- Linking for Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change. In this short interview, Bob shares his tips on approaching inter-sectoral collaboration and making it more manageable.

In this interview Bob encourages us to make sense of complex challenges by building a collaborative around concrete and actionable items. He also cautions us not to worry too much about the lineup, because while it is important to hear from all of the big players, it is also important to hear from many diverse groups and different voices (including local residents). Including people from outside of the field (which he calls disruptive influences) will bring a different angle to the work and ensure you don't keep going down the same path.

By Gillian Kranias, HC Link

A peer sharing session is different from a webinar. I enjoyed my first experience of web-based peer sharing in early February when Robyn Kalda and I co-hosted the peer sharing session "Engaging the Power of Story" for our HC Link community.

Over the past ten years, I have been on a personal mission to build awareness and skills for using storytelling more in my life and work. I sought out opportunities to learn and practice, and talked with many colleagues - which highlighted for me how many of us share this capacity building interest. After joining the team of HC Link, I learned that we could support others; and at our conference last fall, the idea of a peer sharing event on storytelling and narrative approaches was born.

Although our initial intention was to keep participant numbers limited (to make for a cozy dialogue), we realized that the cultural roots of storytelling practice would not support turning people away (e.g. principles of an open circle, and "whoever comes was meant to be there"). So we ended up with 35 participants. Some of those participants were self-defined "listeners". But the majority brought experiences to share.

As the lead moderator, I tried to collect a sense of who might be sharing what in advance. It was exciting to discover who found out about this event (especially as it was not the same people and organizations I had crossed storytelling paths with in the past). For those who shared their experiences while registering, I gave them a call to look at how we could prepare examples on the web meeting platform.

On February 11th, it took a long time to get through introductions... but creating that web of connection to launch the peer sharing was important (some introduced themselves by phone, others by our chat box). The conversation was rich and varied, and took us in many directions. This reflected how the power of story can support our work in so many different ways. We did not record the session, but notes are available, as well as two documents with further resources – one developed for HC Link and one shared by a peer participant (view the resources here).

During over an hour of dynamic discussions, one enduring take-away for me came from participants' reflections on the experience of sharing their own stories: how this spawns both personal and community healing (amidst vulnerability); and how waiting for the right moment matters (we are not always ready to share – yet). That reminds me that working with the power of story involves important preparations and development, and we cannot control all our outcomes.

Other examples shared by participants were of their roles in creating those spaces and support for story sharing. One case was storytelling facilitated between elders and youth in the context of community planning discussions; youth learned about the history of community change, which encouraged all to reflect on the role that planning community change could play. Another case was the facilitation of youth groups where the entire program consisted of offering generative questions to facilitate story sharing about the youth's experiences with tobacco – no lectures, just dialogue and allowing the youth to ask informational questions of service provider when their "right moment" had arrived.

We also explored how to tell organizational stories: of our efforts, our work, and our mission/vision/values.

HC Link will continue to look at how we can support your work with Engaging the Power of Story. Click here for our current resources posted from the peer sharing. And don't hesitate to contact me with any questions, suggestions, or support requests.

Gillian Kranias, Health Promotion Consultant
Ext. 2247
416-408-2249 (1-800-397-9567)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

By Monica Nunes and Linda Yoo, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Last week the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre (CAMH HPRC) hosted the second webinar in a three part series of webinars exploring mental health in public health and health promotion settings. The focus of this webinar was on considerations for mental health promotion programming when searching for and choosing evidence.

Feb.27 image
The webinar was hosted in partnership with the CAMH HPRC's host program, the Provincial System Support Program (PSSP) and the presenters shared expertise from their work in PSSP. Presenters included Linda Yoo (Health Promotion Consultant with the CAMH HPRC), Novella Martinello (Equity and Engagement Lead with the East Region Team) and Ilene Hyman (Evaluation Lead with the Drug Treatment Funding Program Implementation Team).

The webinar had four objectives:

  • To raise awareness of the importance of evidence in practice and decision-making processes
  • To raise awareness of the current state of mental health promotion evidence
  • To increase knowledge of the types of evidence and the ways to obtain evidence
  • To increase knowledge of ways to use evidence in practice or decision-making processes

Examples of mental health promotion-related programming were highlighted to showcase the range of existing evidence-based mental health promotion interventions. Presenters also highlighted some of the challenges practitioners face when searching for and choosing evidence such as: the complexity and long-term nature of mental health promotion outcomes like resiliency and self-esteem; the measurement of mental health promotion interventions that are often multi-level, multi-component and multi-sectoral; and the infeasibility of randomized control studies for many mental health promotion interventions given the cost and ethical considerations.

Recognizing some of these challenges the presenters reminded participants to "not lose heart" and highlighted the following quote:

"The absence of excellent evidence does not make evidence-based decision making impossible; what is required is the best evidence available, not the best evidence possible." i

To learn more about searching and choosing the best evidence possible when thinking about mental health promotion programming, you might like to view the webinar slides or the recording of this webinar through this link:

i Muir, Gray JA. 1997. Evidence-Based Healthcare: How to Make Health Policy and Management Decisions. New York/Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.

By Andrea Zeelie-Varga

Parent Action on Drugs and CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre collaborated with HC Link on an online learning series, Family-based Approaches for Building Resiliency in Children and Youth.

In webinar one, we introduced and defined family-based/ family skills programming, looking at definitions, concepts of resiliency and risk and protective factors, as well as outcomes. Webinar one introduced best practices guidelines for family skills programs from Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and United Nations. The webinar also cited Strengthening Families for the Future, Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth, Stop Now and Plan, Multisystemic Therapy, Triple P Parenting Program and The Incredible Years as examples.

The webinar also took an in depth look at the principles for implementing and delivering family-based programs:


Webinar two gave a brief overview of the principles, and honed in on the last two guidelines, before exploring some learning from the field with three guest presenters:

  • MaryLynn Reddon-D'Arcy, from Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's Child, Youth and Family Program presented her experience with Incredible Years Parenting Program and the Dinosaur Social Skills Program.
  • Megan Dumais, Manager of the Family Health Team at the Sudbury & District Health Unit, gave an overview of their community-based parenting model in the Sudbury and Manitoulin Districts with the Triple P Parenting Program.
  • Kerri Kightley, Manager of The Peterborough Drug Strategy, shared her experiences with Strengthening Families for Parents and Youth in both country and city settings.

The presenters then engaged in a discussion panel, looking at some of the challenges of implementation and the need for adaptation. To hear the presenters' experiences with their respective programs (and to listen to the lively panel discussion!) view the recording below.



Webinar 1:

Twitter Chat Recap:

Webinar 2:


By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Suicide rates for First Nations, Inuit and Métis are far greater than the national Canadian rate. According to Health Canada, rates of suicide are 5 – 7 times higher for First Nations youth compared to non-Aboriginal youth. Among Inuit youth, suicide rates are at 11 times higher than the national average. During a webinar yesterday titled Understanding and Preventing Suicide among First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples hosted by the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre, presenter Alison Benedict (Program Consultant, Aboriginal Community Engagement, CAMH Provincial System Support Program) spoke to these astounding rates.

During the webinar, Alison encouraged participants to ask "what happened" to better understand the historical and current factors that frame suicide rates within First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities. These factors include colonization, social rejection, and on-going racism and violence. To illustrate the interplay among these factors and their impact on well-being, Alison shared the presentation below in Prezi format (click on the image to go to the full Prezi).


In addition to presenting a historical context for understanding suicide, Alison along with her colleague Renee Linklater (Manager, Aboriginal Community Engagement, CAMH Provincial System Support Program), provided information on prevention strategies. During this discussion, participants used the chat pod actively to network and exchange information on initiatives and programs that they are currently involved with to prevent suicide and promote life. To learn more about the strategies shared please check out the webinar recording and slide deck.

You may also be interested in an upcoming webinar hosted by the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre titled Spirit to Spirit Webinar # 2: Sharing Knowledge for Mental Health Promotion and Substance Misuse Prevention with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples. This session will focus on learning from practice and will include a panel discussion with community partners from the CAMH Centre for Prevention Science, Cancer Care Ontario and Chiefs of Ontario who will share their experiences reflecting on the successes, challenges and opportunities of working in this area.

More info here:

By: Stephanie Harris, Women and HIV/AIDS Community Development Coordinator, Réseau ACCESS Network

When I was on my way to the Conference, I was prepared to be bringing home a lot of information but never expected to walk away with so many new tools that I could use in my work. The experience was absolutely amazing and I met so many fantastic people. For me, the main reason in attending the conference was to learn more about policy development through a health promotions lens. And boy did I!

I am at a point in my work where the development of policy around HIV is becoming evident and a necessary step forward in my community. Though I was mildly comfortable with the idea, I felt I needed more education and tools to move forward on this. Just gaining a better understanding of the "politics" around getting a policy into place would help.

In this conference, not only did I gain a better understanding of the processes in place for policy development, even better, I walked away with a greater knowledge on how to engage the right people and the proper language and actions to use in order to make policy happen. Though my work is not larger scale per se, as in it won't affect global change, it was still very important that I learn the steps to follow to ensure effective and sustainable policy.

I've made great connections, including meeting a nurse from Public Health Ontario who will assist me with some of my own research. I was able to have conversations with people (all of whom had various roles within their own communities) that I had never considered to speak to in my own community and through them have since been able to connect with a few key people in my own community to help move things forward in my work.

I walked away a better, more informed person and professional and for that I thank you very much. I wanted to attend this conference more than any other and am so thankful I got to participate!

Réseau ACCESS Network is a non-profit, community-based charitable organization, committed to promoting wellness, education, harm and risk reduction. Réseau ACCESS Network supports the individual and serves the whole community, including persons at risk, in a comprehensive/holistic approach to HIV/AIDS, HCV treatment and related health issues.

For more on HC Link's 2013 conference, you can check out our post-conference resource page

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

Mary Lewis, Vice President of Research and Knowledge Exchange for the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, sat down to chat with us about empowering communities at our 2013 conference- Linking for Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change. In this short interview Mary shares key steps for empowering communities towards positive change and provides advice for leaders who want to make a difference.

In this interview Mary discusses three key steps towards empowering communities towards positive change. First, is to develop a shared vision that everyone can buy into. Second is to take that vision and think about it realistically within the political context. And third, is to identify a practical next step that the community can rally around and bring change about. Mary also stresses the importance of shared leadership. Some people are comfortable being out there in the public face, others are busy doing background work, but it is important to be respectful and appreciative of the contribution that everyone can make.

We want to thank Mary Lewis for sharing her time and experience with us. For more on Mary, please check out the presentation she gave at our 2013 conference:

"Empowering Communities"


By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Parenting and family life play a pivotal role in the health and well-being of children and youth. In some cases, combined with other determinants of health, families can increase the risk that leads to childhood mental health problems or unhealthy behaviors. On the other hand, parents, caregivers and families can also promote the protective factors that buffer children from risk and increase their resiliency to bounce back from difficult situations.

Research shows that the protective factors that parents and families can facilitate might include, among others, developing positive attachment between parents and children, providing age appropriate supervision and monitoring, promoting mutual respect of all family members and encouraging open communication.

When it comes to communication in families, there can be some topics that parents and caregivers are eager to broach with their children but they may not know where to begin. Mental health and mental illness might be one of those topics. To support parents in having these conversations, on January 28th during Bell Let's Talk Day, Ottawa Public Health launched a new campaign that calls on families to Have That Talk. The campaign includes a video series designed to answer common questions parents have about their child's mental health.

The video series, available in both English and French, comprises of four parts with each part responding to several questions on a related topic. The videos provide information relevant to parents who have a child that is stressed, depressed or suicidal. Content in the video is shared by professionals with expertise on a given topic such as a public health nurse. Overall, the goal of the campaign is to give parents the knowledge and resources they need to talk about mental health with their child or teen. Not only is knowledge power, but when it comes to informing some discussions parents have with their children it may even be lifesaving.


If you're interested in learning more, please visit the campaign website at: and You may also direct specific questions or comments to Ottawa Public Health through Benjamin Leikin, Supervisor, Mental Health and Youth Section at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Finally, if you'd like to share other helpful resources that can assist parents, families and caregivers in addressing mental health in their children and teens, feel free to post them in the comments section of this blog post!

By Andrea Zeelie-Varga, Parent Action on Drugs

What does a resilient family mean to you?

Participants on our January 29th webinar told us:

A resilient family is...

  • a family that communicates in a healthy manner
  • a family who is able to support each other in healthy development
  • supportive; connected; able to share feelings; able to try new things and take risks
  • respectful of each other
  • having healthy coping skills in difficult situations
  • ability to adapt and cope with hurdles
  • connected and supported
  • having positive behaviours that help to resist "risky" behaviours
  • ability to adapt to changes
  • flexible

The webinar was the first in our online series Family-based Approaches for Building Resiliency in Children and Youth.

Barbara Steep, an equity and engagement lead in the GTA Region Office at CAMH, kicked off the webinar with an introduction and definition of family-based/ family skills programming.  Monica Nunes, a research analyst at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health within the MOHLTC-funded CAMH, provided an overview of the evidence base for this type of work and reviewed best practices and guidelines. Learn more about what Monica had to say in the resource list below. Diane Buhler, executive director of Parent Action on Drugs, gave an introduction to best practices guidelines for family skills programs, peppered with program examples.

We also held a discussion with participants to hear about their experiences with family-based programs.

To learn more about the webinar, check out the resources below:

The series continues with two more events!

  • An interactive twitter chat (#resilientfamilies) will be hosted on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. to facilitate continued discussion. Follow @HC_Link and @PAD_Ontario for more information.

  • Part 2 of the series Learning from the Field will take place Wednesday, February 19, 2014 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. This last webinar of the series will feature community partners who currently deliver family-based programming. A panel of practitioners will identify successes as well as lessons learned, while reflecting on the evidence in this area of practice. The session will provide substantial opportunities for discussion with webinar participants.

HC Link is excited to learn of the new initiative launched by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC), The Healthy Kids Community Challenge, to support the priority of Healthy Active Communities within the Ontario Healthy Kids Strategy. This program aligns very closely with HC Link's values and priorities; at the core, this program is about collaborating through partnerships, creating healthy communities (and in turn, children), and supporting health equity. What is particularly unique about this program is that the municipal government is the lead organization, a wide range of partners must be involved and a community champion must be identified. Read on to learn more about this opportunity.

HealthyKidsPicImage from:

The Healthy Kids Community Challenge at a Glance

This is a community-led program, under the leadership of municipalities and coordination of the province, where partners from different sectors (e.g. public health, education, recreation, local business) work together to implement activities to promote healthy weights for kids. Program activities will be based on a specific theme (selected by the MOHLTC every 9 months based on best evidence of risk and protective factors) that is related to healthy eating, physical activity and adequate sleep (e.g. eating a healthy breakfast, active transportation, etc.).

For more information on this program and how you can apply (note – deadline is March 14, 2014), you can visit the MOHLTC website or read the Background and Guidelines to the Healthy Kids Community Challenge.

HC Link encourages you to look at this important program and think about the role that you can play to make this initiative a success. We look forward to supporting communities in meeting this challenge.

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By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Most of us are becoming more and more familiar with the idea of mental illness as reflecting some kind of problematic mental state. But have you thought recently about how mental health is something that affects us every day even if we aren't dealing with a mental illness? According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), mental health is a positive concept that is distinct from mental illness. PHAC defines mental health as "the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face". Mental health is a multifaceted topic and making the distinction between mental health and mental illness is just one of the many potential discussions to have when it comes to our mental well-being. Fortunately, today is Bell Let's Talk Day and it provides the perfect opportunity to start a conversation about mental health!

Across the country today, people will be using their phones and social media accounts to raise money and their voices to make a statement about the importance of mental health. So don't be shy! Sending a text message, making a mobile long distance call and tweeting #BellLetsTalk will all have an impact.

Not sure where to start or what to say? Here are some online events happening today to get you in the loop:

Follow CAMH in the Media

Various CAMH experts will be on TV and on social media throughout the day in celebration of Bell Let's Talk Day! On Toronto's CP24, CAMH clinical psychologist, Dr Katy Kamkar will talk about the signs of stress and how to manage it. You can also follow CAMH on Twitter @CAMHNews and @endstigma today for related updates. Click here for more info.

Mobilizing Minds and mindyourmind host #YAMH Young Adult Mental Health Twitter Chat

From 1 -2 PM EST today join the #YAMH Tweet Chat! The topic of the day is "Reaching our audience: How to get depression tools into the hands of people who need them". The chat will include youth, professionals and advocates who are interested and passionate about getting tools to the people who need them. To participate: Create a free Twitter account and go to Simply enter the hashtag (#YAMH).

Ontario Shores #MindVine Launch and Twitter Chat

Join Ontario Shores in launching #MindVine, a new social media section on From 12:30 – 1:30 PM today, Stella Ducklow, mental health advocate and star of the adolescent teen documentary Three Voices, will help to launch #MindVine. Use the hashtag #MindVine to ask Stella a question via Twitter.

By: Zanita Lukezich, Evergreen

Attending HC Link's 2013 Conference, Collaborating for Change in November here in Toronto was a great opportunity to learn about new approaches in the field of community health promotion. It provided direct connections to our work here at Evergreen, with our outreach and partnership building programs for vulnerable and under-served communities.

The workshop that resonated most strongly with me was the session entitled, Turning Around Albert: One year towards a healthy public housing building, facilitated by Carol Zoulalian and Helen Cheung from Houselink Community Homes and Gautam Mukherjee from the Fred Victor Centre. They introduced the various inter-related issues that the residents face, living in Toronto's downtown eastside. From mental illness and social isolation to extreme poverty and vulnerability to crime, this community is on the periphery of our society. It is incredibly easy for residents of this community housing building to fall through the cracks, get evicted, and be one more person living on the streets.

turning around albert(Carol Zoulalian, Helen Cheung from Houselink and Gautam Mukherjee from the Fred Victor Centre)

They detailed the collaborative and inclusive approach to addressing these issues with the residents, and how good communication and having the same goals for the partners which included: a public housing landlord, supportive housing provider, community developer, a primary health care provider, and police services, can lead to a huge success for the entire community. They approach these complex issues with an 'eviction prevention' mindset and try to have the staff seen as champions of the tenants' well-being.

We know from the Social Determinants of Health that secure housing is a priority in order to provide safety and stability to individuals. Moreover, housing is the foundation on which an individual can build independence. It was inspiring to see the comprehensive, one-on-one support that was offered to residents who were suffering with addictions and mental health issues. The end result of this unique collaboration was better access to primary care opportunities for residents who often go without these fundamental services. Funded by the Toronto Central LHIN, this pilot project showcased that a community can be strengthened from within with the proper support.

This work taps into the potential within each person living in community housing, and recognizes the basic goodness therein. The transformation that took place at this address was groundbreaking, and it was a pleasure to see the dedication and commitment that these organizations utilized to reduce social isolation and ensure the success of this project.

This blog post was written by Zanita Lukezich, Senior Manager, National Programs for Evergreen. Evergreen is a national not-for-profit that inspires action to green cities.

All presentation slides and video recordings from HC Link's 2013 conference are posted in the Event Archive section of the HC Link website.

By Kyley Alderson, HC Link

Tonya Surman, Founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation, sat down to chat with us about social innovation at our 2013 conference- Linking for Healthy Communities: Collaborating for Change. In this short interview Tonya provides tips for organizations looking to become more innovative and reveals her secret to staying motivated.

In this interview Tonya asserts that creating safe, dedicated spaces for people to think outside of the box is critical for organizations looking to become more innovative. Also, on an individual level, becoming aware of how to NOT create your own mental blocks is important. When Tonya is asked about how realistic it is to create this time, when we are already so busy at work, Tonya replies "Everybody has the same time. It is not about time, it is about priority." People will find the time if they are motivated, and people will be motivated if the threat or opportunity is great enough. It is the role of the Community Animator to look for larger patterns and position issues as threats or opportunities to weave together social capital and motivate others to dedicate their time.

And on staying motivated? Well, small wins are hugely important. Oftentimes, we want to change the whole world now, but it is important to take on projects that are small enough to achieve in a reasonable amount of time, as this allows you to build trust and a track record in your community, which will allow you to take on more in the future.

We want to thank Tonya Surman for sharing her time, wisdom and ideas with us. For more on Tonya, please check out the presentation she gave at our 2013 conference:

"It's Up to Us: Collaboration, Social Innovation and our role as Community Animator"

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By Lorna McCue, Executive Director, Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC)

ONCAThe Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA) is an important piece of legislation that will affect every not-for-profit organization in Ontario. Rather than seeing it as a cumbersome corporate responsibility, the Board of Directors of the Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition is using it catalyst to examine how its governance structure can further its mission.

From the ONCA Basics webinar, hosted by HC Link on November 19, 2013, and presented by Brenda Doner, Manager of the Get Ready for the ONCA Project of Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), we learned that ONCA (Bill 65) was passed in 2010, but has not yet been proclaimed. It is expected to be proclaimed in 2014, following passage of a technical amendments bill. The government has guaranteed that ONCA will not take effect until 6 months after it has been proclaimed, and that there will be a three-year transition period so that organizations will have until 2017 to comply with the new regulations.

The purpose of ONCA is to modernize the law that governs how nonprofit organizations operate. ONCA will make it simpler for organizations to incorporate as not-for-profits and will ensure greater transparency and accountability in how they are run. When ONCA comes into effect, it will:

  •  Make it easier and quicker to incorporate a not-for-profit organization
  • Provide clearer rules for governing a corporation and increase accountability
  • Clarify that not-for-profit corporations can engage in commercial activities if the activities support the corporation's not-for-profit purposes
  • Ease audit requirements for smaller corporations
  • Enhance member's rights

General information about ONCA is available from the Ministry of Consumer Services. The Ministry also publishes a checklist for existing non-profits, to help them get ready to comply with the new legislation. CLEO has been funded by the Ministry of Consumer Services to provide educational tools and workshops to further assist organizations to respond effectively. Their website provides:

  • background on the ONCA in plain English
  • helpful planning and work tools
  • webinars and other educational events
  • links to other resources

After viewing the webinar, there seems to be little of concern in ONCA for OHCC, but we have embraced this opportunity to re-examine our governance policies, structures and corporate affairs. We have struck a governance committee, comprised of 6 board members, who will study the ONCA, develop a plan for a comprehensive review and engage all board and staff members in the process. From our Letters Patent to membership classes to our organizational structure - all will be scrutinized to ensure that our organization meets all regulatory requirements, and is efficient, effective and reflective of our members' wishes. Embarking on this journey has energized the board and we are all looking forward to some stimulating debates.

Submitted by Linda Yoo and Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

Understanding health needs is essential for shaping programming and policy making in public health and health promotion. For some time the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS), the longest ongoing school survey of adolescents in Canada, has provided data to describe student health needs in the area of drug use and guide substance misuse prevention across Ontario. This week, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre was in attendance for the release of findings of the OSDUHS's Drug Use among Ontario Students report. At this launch, the OSDUHS research team highlighted overall student drug use trends, several positive findings, and findings of public health concern. In addition to reviewing these highlights below, you can also read the full report online.

Overall student drug use trends

  1. No drug monitored showed significant increase in use compared to the 2011 OSDUHS results.
  2. Three drug use measures showed decreases between 2011 and 2013:
    • Alcohol fell from 55% in 2011 to 50% in 2013
    • High-caffeine energy drinks fell from 50% in 2011 to 40% in 2013
    • Inhalants use fell from 6% in 2011 to 3% in 2013
  3. Alcohol remains the most common drug used by students in the past year.
  4. OSDUHS has begun tracking two new synthetic drugs.
    • The OSDUHS research team began tracking 2 new synthetics drugs, synthetic cannabis (aka K2 or spice) and Methoxetamine (aka "MXE" or mket"), in addition to the synthetic substances mephedrone ("bath salts") and BZP (benzylpiperazine pills) that were tracked in 2011.
    • Although use of the latter three substances is minimal, synthetic cannabis has been used by 2%, or about 17 300 students in the past year which suggests a need for monitoring given the adverse of effects of synthetic cannabis.

Positive Findings

  1. In addition to the steady decrease in alcohol use, driving after drinking is on a downward trend.
  2. Illicit drug use is also on a downward trend for substances such as cannabis, hallucinogens, cocaine, methamphetamines, amphetamines, and so on.
  3. Prevention programs which aim to delay initiation of substance use have shown progress. For example, students today use substances starting at an older age.

Public Health Concerns

  1. A significant number of students are still smoking or using tobacco.
    • 1 in 10, or about 83,000, students report smoking in the past year.
    • 10%, or about 88 400 students in Ontario, report the use of a waterpipe (hookah) in the past year.
  2. Students that drink alcohol are drinking in hazardous ways as shown by the increase in binge drinking.
    • One if five students reported binge drinking at least once during the month before the survey. This is a concern given the increased number of injuries associated with binge drinking and other related problems.
  3. More students are driving after cannabis use than after drinking alcohol.
    • 1 in 10 students report driving a vehicle within one hour of using cannabis at least once in the past year.
  4. Over-the-counter medications are the only drug that shows an increase in use since 1999.
    • 10% of students (about 94 100 students) reported using over-the-counter medications to get high in the past year.
    • The majority of students obtain the drug from someone at home.
  5. Nonmedical use of prescription opioid pain relievers remain an area of concern.
    • 12% of students (about 120 100 students in Ontario) report using a prescription opioid pain reliever nonmedically in the past year.

In the New Year, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre will be hosting a webinar on how data is used to inform mental health and substance use related health promotion programming. As part of the webinar, the use of OSDUHS data will be highlighted with examples from the field of public health. Stay tuned for details!

Previously on the HC Link blog, we've reflected on Mandela's legacy.

Today in acknowledgement of his passing, we share two pieces of writing that capture Mandela's spirit and honour his life.

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika.

Posted by on in Blog

By Andrea Bodkin, HC Link

I heard the most amazing speaker today. He also happens to have the most awesome job title I've ever heard: Community Choreographer.

I'm talking about Dave Meslin, and he was the community choreographer for the Nutrition Resource Centre (NRC)'s workshop on food policy.

Now I love policy. I aspire to be a true policy wonk one day. The thought of sitting around all day talking about policy gets me pretty excited. But what the workshop was really about for me was empowerment. It was about the opportunities that we, as folks who work in non-profits and in the health promotion and healthy communities sectors, have to give a voice to people who don't always have one.

Now that gets me even MORE excited than policy does. As Dave says, we would live in a better world if people had a voice.

In my sector- health promotion and healthy communities- we talk about bad policy a lot. We talk about it in the context of policy that's not informed by evidence (or contradicts evidence), about policies that create or support health inequities etc. Dave argues that bad policy comes from a vacuum of non-engagement. When the people affected by the policy are not involved in the process, bad policy is the result. When only industry and political interests form policy, bad policy is the result. The community voice provides a balance, and provides the best ideas of how to make the issue or situation better.

And the even bigger problem, how do we get people to the table? How do you get your message out there? Dave suggested being creative. And maybe a little crazy. For instance, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first pedestrian death due to a motorized vehicle, activists obtained a car and buried it. Literally dug a hole, put the car in it and held a funeral. To bring attention to the 1700 deaths in Toronto associated with smog, activists collected 1700 posters done be people affected by smog, printed them on coloured paper and installed them- like an art installation- on clotheslines in a local park. And in both of those cases, there was a LOT of media presence. The media, Dave says, needs us more than we need them. They need content. We need to give them content in innovative ways (preferably that includes photo ops) that they'll pick up.There are, Dave says, no rules to communications. Except that you should break all of the rules.

There are, Dave says, four steps in journeying citizens from their passive roles to more active ones. Citizens need confidence: that their opinion matters, that they can create change. They need tools: a diagram to be shown how policy and politics works. They need to believe in malleability: that change is possible. And they need to be part of the collective ownership that is this work. The world, Dave says, is a co-op, and everyone is a shareholder.

I could have listened to Dave Meslin's stories about activism and engagement and crazy ideas ALL day. And I hope to have another opportunity to do so very soon!




HC_Link Resources & Recording from our online discussion on the Canadian Index of Wellbeing with @AOHC_ACSO is now available:
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HC_Link Saw your donation box at LCBO @PAD_Ontario! ^KA. Money goes towards great programs and resources :)
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