Strengthening Canada’s response to the pandemic means strengthening Mental Health Promotion

Mental health is described as the 4th wave of the pandemic. During this 70th Mental Health Week in Canada, our KDE Hub team is asking how prepared are we to deal with this wave, short- and long-term? Mental health services to support people with established mental health problems rightfully need attention and many organizations are seeking to meet increased demands for these services in meaningful and creative ways. These ‘downstream’ services are necessary. They are also insufficient in dealing with the pandemic’s 4th wave. We’ll get pummelled, again and again, if we ignore the conditions that drive mental health problems in the first place.

Mental health promotion (MHP) takes us furthest ‘upstream’ and it is the least understood and least developed part of the mental health continuum. This is true globally and described well in a recent position statement from the International Union for Health Promotion and Education.

How might we strengthen understanding and development of mental health promotion? A starting place is understanding where we’re at. One marker of development of a field is a shared understanding of main concepts – a common language. The Hub explored the presence of a common language for MHP across definitions from a selective set of public and mental health policy organizations and MHP frameworks. We found many definitions and descriptions of mental health promotion. Although a standard definition is not used across sources, common concepts were readily apparent. Mental health promotion:

  •  is concerned with achieving positive mental health and well-being at the individual, community, and population level and throughout the lifespan;
  • addresses modifiable determinants for health to reduce risks and inequities and strengthen protective factors;
  • is part of an upstream and holistic approach to well-being;
  • a multi-level approach that requires intersectoral policy and actions;
  • based on principles of engagement and empowerment.

This selective analysis of MHP definitions gives us some promising signals about the development of MHP as a field – as a unique and upstream part of the mental health continuum. How can we strengthen this niche? How can we ensure it’s part of Canada’s response to the mental health wave of the pandemic?

At the Hub’s first public webinar since our annual symposium in January, we’ll explore how global and local assets might be put to good use for strengthening mental health promotion in Canada. Please join us and help shape actions within a relatively small, growing (and mighty) MHP community.

Register for this webinar