Inherent in any turbulent time is a hidden opportunity to create change. Moving into a post-pandemic era, this year’s Annual Symposium offers such an opportunity. Every year, the Hub team looks for inspiration for the upcoming year’s Annual Symposium. The first Symposium (2021) was focused on context – acknowledging the pivotal moment in time that mental health promotion occupied as the Covid-19 pandemic a highlighted a mental health crisis underpinned by structural inequities. The Second Annual Symposium (2022) continued this conversation, centering around a growth phase for mental health promotion – growing awareness about mental health promotion interventions, growing connections to relevant resources and people, and growing skills to advance mental health promotion.
Context. Growth. What’s next?
In scanning for patterns and trends in the field of mental health promotion we have seen significant shifts in public and political discourse about the need to address the conditions of poor mental health. In Canada, the effects of colonization of this nation’s First Peoples and of racist systems are coming to the fore. We are awakening to the fact that epidemics of mental health and suicide will not be solved by stop-gap solutions. Effective solutions demand that we address and depoliticize the cause of mental health suffering – poverty, racism, food insecurity, colonial traumas, housing costs, climate breakdown, to name a few.
Though this idea is not new in Western paradigms (see, for example the 1986 Ottawa Charter of Health Promotion or the 2009 Melbourne Charter for Promoting Mental Health and Preventing Mental and Behavioural Disorders), and is a given in longstanding Indigenous frameworks describing wellbeing (e.g., The First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework; Social Determinants of Inuit Health in Canada), there is a collective and mainstream swell of recognition that treating mental health illness alone will not necessarily result in greater population mental health.
This recognition was eloquently expressed by an analogy in a September 2022 article in The Guardian: “If a plant were wilting we wouldn’t diagnose it with “wilting-plant-syndrome” – we would change its conditions. Yet when humans are suffering under unliveable conditions, we’re told something is wrong with us, and expected to keep pushing through. To keep working and producing, without acknowledging our hurt.” And echoed by a New York Times article published in the same month: “Solving the mental health crisis, then, will require fighting for people to have secure access to infrastructure that buffers them from chronic stress…”
In other words, there is momentum for solutions that move beyond the individual and look “upstream” for the root of suffering.
Momentum – the theme of the KDE Hub’s Third Annual Symposium. But momentum is only a starting point. How do we keep momentum for upstream solutions going? What are the mechanisms, or levers that have a disproportionate influence on systems? What role does knowledge play in catalyzing change? The Symposium is a chance to collectively explore these questions through keynotes, panel discussions, interactive sessions, and networking opportunities.
We hope to see you there!