Mental health is more than the absence of a mental health condition or illness: it is a positive sense of well-being, or the capacity to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face.
Mental health impacts each and every one of us. We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health. People living with a mental health issue or condition can experience positive mental health, and an individual may experience poor mental health without a mental health condition. Mental health is not fixed. It is influenced by a range of factors, including our life experiences, workplace or other environments, and the social and economic conditions that shape our lives (or the social determinants of mental health).
Action can be taken to promote positive mental health for individuals and communities at the individual, community and system level. At the individual and community level, mental health promotion strategies focus on enhancing individuals’ empowerment and participation and can target a range of environments or settings, such as the workplace, home, school or community. These strategies primarily seek to strengthen factors that protect positive mental health, lessen risk factors for poor mental health and/or address the social determinants of health. At the system level, strategies focus on addressing the social determinants of health and must involve work across a range of sectors and policy areas, such as housing, employment, social assistance, settlement and others.
Learn more about the social determinants of mental health.
How CMHA Ontario is 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 needed to promote mental health and recovery. Equally important are a person’s peers, family and friends and other community resources. Access to social determinants such as employment, 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 continues to provide policy research and advise related to healthy public policy through our submissions, backgrounders, and policy papers on the social determinants of health, including housing, income and employment.
CMHA Ontario’s Minding Our Bodies project is focused on increasing capacity within the community mental health system in Ontario to promote physical activity and healthy eating for people with serious mental illness to support recovery.
Canadian Index of Wellbeing. University of Waterloo. 2012
Exploring Positive Mental Health. Canadian Institute for Health Information. 2009.