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Mental Health Promotion

January 14, 2013

Mental health has been defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realizes their abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to one’s community.

Because mental health is more than the absence of mental illness, a person can have a mental illness but still experience mental well-being. This understanding is fundamental to recognizing that mental health promotion can also be targeted to people with mental illnesses. The goal of mental health promotion for people with mental illness is to ensure that individuals are enabled to gain control over their lives and their mental health and that the environment in which they live supports their recovery.

Like all health promotion, mental health promotion actions are intended to enhance positive mental health and well-being throughout the lifespan and in a range of settings, including the home, school, workplace and community. Mental health promoting strategies are oriented to empowerment and participation. They strengthen protective factors, lessen risk factors, build on the social determinants of health and often involve partnerships across sectors.

There is a substantial body of evidence available on strategies that are effective in promoting mental health.

What’s Happening?

The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is currently developing a new Mental Health and Addictions Strategy for Ontario that includes directions for promoting mental health.

The Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion has created a new a Healthy Communities Fund to support investments in local, regional and provincial initiatives that take an integrated approach to improving the health of Ontarians. Promoting mental health is one of the strategic areas for action.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada has included a goal of promoting mental health in the national strategy being developed for Canada.

How is CMHA Ontario Addressing This Issue?

The Canadian Mental Health Association’s Framework for Support foundational document, now in its third edition, presents the key message that mental health services, while important, are not the only resource to promote mental health and recovery. Equally important are a person’s peers, family and friends and other community resources. In addition, a person’s access to the fundamental elements of citizenship, work, housing, education and income are critical.

CMHA Ontario partnered with four other provincial organizations, to prepare Mental Health Promotion in Ontario: A Call to Action which called on the provincial government to set an agenda for mental health promotion in Ontario. The paper identifies social inclusion, freedom from discrimination and violence, and access to economic resources as the three most significant determinants of mental health. A range of effective, evidence-based strategies are identified as options.

CMHA Ontario was an invitational participant in the 2008 Pan-Canadian Mental Health Promotion Think Tank. See Toward Flourishing for All: National Think Tank on Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention Proceedings (April 2009).

CMHA Ontario made a submission to Ontario’s Select Committee on Mental Health and Addictions, which included a focus on mental health promotion.

CMHA Ontario and the Wellesley Institute prepared a response to Ontario’s Every Door is the Right Door discussion document for the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy that identifies tools and resources to reduce mental health disparities. See Focus on Equity: Response to Every Door is the Right Door: Towards a 10-year Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

CMHA Ontario is participating on the Healthy Communities Theme Group, a work group of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care supporting the development of Ontario’s new Mental Health and Addictions Strategy.

CMHA Ontario is active in upstream strategies to promote good mental health. Our Minding Our Bodies project is creating tools and resources to support physical activity in people with serious mental illness.

CMHA Ontario continues to provide policy research and advice related to healthy public policy through our submissions, backgrounders and policy papers on the broad determinants of health, including housing, income and employment.

Related Resources

Evidence Based Mental Health Promotion Resource. Victorian Government Department of Human Services. Melbourne, Australia. 2006

Exploring Positive Mental Health. Canadian Institute for Health Information. 2009.

Promoting Mental Health: Concepts, Emerging Evidence, Practice. World Health Organization, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in collaboration with the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation and the University of Melbourne, 2005.

Mental Health Promotion for People with Mental Illness. CMHA National and the Empowerment Connection, 2002

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