Child and Youth Mental Health Promotion in the Canadian Context

How are we doing in Canada at improving the underlying determinants of positive mental health for children and youth? How can the MHP-IF contribute to advancing mental health promotion? This session considered the Canadian context in relation to the international keynote address by Professor Margaret Barry. Professor Barry was joined by panelists with broad understanding of the national picture and relevant perspectives for the MHP-IF. The session ended with a move into small groups for more in-depth discussion about the international and national contexts for child and youth mental health promotion and what it means for us.

Key messages

    • Shifts in the Canadian context echo international trends (e.g., a growing interest in upstream and holistic approaches to wellness, the need for implementation and context-sensitive approaches)
    • We need policies and methodologies that ensure that Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) Canadians are engaged, have ownership and provide leadership in conversations, programs and services


    • Margaret Barry, Professor of Health Promotion and Public Health, National University of Ireland Galway
    • Olivier Bellefleur, Scientific Lead, National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy
    • Claire Betker, Scientific Director, National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health
    • Brenda Restoule, Psychologist & Clinical Consultant, Nipissing First Nation Health Services

Small group facilitators

    • Margaret Barry, Olivier Bellefleur, Claire Betker, Shannon Bradley Dexter, Alexandra Fortier, Dianne Oickle, Brenda Restoule, Laura Struik, Trish van Katwyk, Susan Watt

In the words of the panelists

It’s important to have the information and knowledge of non-Indigenous perspectives but also that of Indigenous people. And we must be able to recognize that both have the ability to provide us with a path forward that could be universal in supporting everybody’s mental wellness. And in some cases, we have to give extra effort and time to the Indigenous perspective because for so long it has been not given its place and recognition as being valid. Brenda Restoule

Upstream work is hard work. You’re paddling against the current…but it’s doable… There is return on investment. And we need to work collaboratively and together to that common goal. Claire Betker

In the context of the months and years to come, … there is a spotlight on mental health and a window of opportunity to act. But there will also be a time coming probably soon where governments will be looking to balance budgets … So I think the idea of working with partners –  of finding the allies to keep this on the political agenda for as long as it takes and to seize opportunities to scale up the good work that you’re doing. Olivier Bellefleur

Working in this way is difficult, it’s hard. But that’s why we are all needed because if it were easy it would have been done by now. But I think we have to work with possibilities. We can always see the barriers, but I think we have to see beyond the barriers and look at the opportunities. I think that we are at an important tipping point for mental health. Margaret Barry

Resources related to this session


January 26, 2021