Public Health’s Role in Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention
Taking a public health approach to mental health means that we need to invest, system wide, in the services and the social determinants of health that promote mental wellness throughout all the life stages, rather than taking a reactive approach that addresses mental illness only once it has become acute. It also means treating mental illness as seriously as physical illness, requiring the same organizational, administrative, and professional response typically found in medical care. This theme invites submissions that examine effective approaches to health promotion and the prevention and management of mental illness, paying special attention to the need for public health actors from different sectors to form a “specialist workforce,” an intersectoral collaboration among different levels of government, other sectors (education, housing, etc.), political actors, community actors, citizens, and the health, mental health and social care sectors. Some examples of topics that could be addressed in this stream include creating healthy public policies, establishing supportive environments, parity for mental health, strengthening community action, reinforcing personal skills, reorienting health services, developing tools for participation and empowerment, and strategies for intersectoral collaboration.
Embracing Diversity – Serving Diverse Populations
Inequalities based on race, income, gender, sexuality, disability, and citizenship overlap and intersect to produce barriers in housing, education, employment, health – the social determinants of health – which also impact mental health and access to mental health services. This stream explores how the mental health sector can better address the needs and leverage the strengths and opportunities of diverse groups, including LGBTQ2S, children and youth, communities of colour, women, seniors, persons with disabilities, and refugees and newcomers to ensure that our mental health services are inclusive, diverse, respectful, culturally sensitive and responsive to a range of needs. Submissions are welcome that showcase the work of successful programs, best practices, and that point to gaps and opportunities for creating diverse and inclusive mental health services.
Working with Indigenous Peoples to Support Mental Health
Faced with a legacy of colonialism and systemic racism, many Indigenous peoples in Canada experience inequalities and discrimination in their access to the social determinants of health, and contend with loss and personal and intergenerational trauma, which produce significant health outcome disparities. While accessing mental health services is generally challenging, it is also particularly difficult for communities in more remote areas in the north and on reserve. This stream explores how the mental health sector can build respectful relationships based in reconciliation among indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians and support indigenous-led practices and community services to better promote the wellbeing and improve the health outcomes for Indigenous peoples. Some examples of topics that could be addressed include mental wellness/resilience practices and programs, barriers to accessing services, community engagement, pathways to reconciliation, trauma-informed practice, policy, partnerships, and innovations in Indigenous mental health, suicide prevention, and reforms in the justice system and housing policy.
Mentally Healthy Schools and Campuses
Childhood and young adulthood are critical stages for fostering healthy emotional development and for establishing a firm foundation for mental health and resilience. Schools and post-secondary institutions, in particular, are on the front lines in supporting young people as they navigate life transitions, and can help establish connections among parents, educators, health professionals, and community organizations to promote child and youth wellness. Some example of topics that could be addressed in this section include school-based programs and interventions, digital approaches to mental health services, early screening and intervention, strategies for working with marginalized youth, navigating the transition from high school to post-secondary education, suicide prevention, resiliency, and peer mentoring.
The Science of Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention
Social determinants are only one aspect of mental health; genetics and brain structure and function are also critical determinants of mental health and well being. Because the onset of many mental illnesses occurs during childhood and young adulthood, early identification of the biological factors that affect mental health increase the likelihood that young people will transition into adulthood with the supports and competencies to manage their well being. This stream invites submissions from researchers, physicians, and clinicians that explore the role of scientific research on the brain, genetics, and other aspects of physiological development in mental health promotion and population health for both youth and adults. Some examples of areas of scientific research that could be addressed include molecular science, neurobiological pathways and mental illness, genetics, novel therapies, early intervention in psychiatric disorders, the interrelation between social determinants of health and brain functioning, the impact of psychoactive drugs on the developing brain, and physical disease and mental health.
Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health
By the time the majority of Canadians access services for problematic substance use, more intensive and urgent forms of treatment are often needed. Addressing substance use early, or even before its onset, requires a coordinated effort from government, the private sector, and community services to ensure that people are supported in their communities with the necessities of life and access to health care and mental health services, which promote mental wellness. This stream explores how we can prevent and manage substance use disorders by promoting mental wellness and access to quality services. Some examples of topics that could be addressed include community and multisectoral partnerships, parity for addictions treatment and mental health services, access to treatment services, de-stigmatizing mental illness and substance use disorder, peer support services, harm reduction, engaging with marginalized groups, and access to affordable housing.
Mental Health in the Workplace
A healthy workplace is key to helping people achieve their potential and meaningfully contribute to their community. Workplaces are sites that can actively support a healthy culture and mental wellness, but they can also be places that foster psychological distress or perpetuate the stigma of mental illness. This stream explores the need, opportunities, and evidence for better pathways for promoting mental wellness in the workplace. Some example of topics that could be addressed include innovative approaches to supporting the mental health needs of employees, anti-stigma campaigns, mental health benefits and programs, partnerships with community mental health agencies, accommodating mental illness at work, and the role of unions in fostering wellness.