Keynote: Helping Mental Health Promotion flourish in Canada

The focus of the second day of the symposium was on actions for helping mental health promotion flourish. A pre-recorded presentation features two leading keynote speakers – Drs. Carol Hopkins and Kwame McKenzie– who offer perspective, ideas, and inspiration on helping mental health promotion flourish in Canada. Highlights include how we might use culture as a foundation for mental health promotion, deepen cultural safety, fill systemic gaps, and promote health equity.

Key messages

    • Using culture as a foundation for wellbeing is consistent with principles of mental health promotion. Promising examples are growing. Even so, it is a large shift from dominant ways of knowing and doing.
    • Integrating First Nations culture as part of mental health promotion is most effective and sustainable when there is community ownership and investment. It requires a strengths-based approach, an understanding of local worldviews and social determinants of health for First Nations, as well as a commitment to a continuing process.
    • There is an ‘echo pandemic’ of mental health in Canada with some populations affected significantly more than others. Addressing this echo pandemic effectively will require more upstream efforts to prevent mental health problems and promote mental wellbeing.
    • Canada needs a pandemic recovery strategy that is well-funded, equity-based, focused on wellness, and fills structural gaps with policies that promote mental health. Reporting on progress must also be included.


    • Carol Hopkins, Chief Executive Officer, Thunderbird Partnership Foundation
    • Kwame McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer, Wellesley Institute

In the words of the speakers

Culture is not only about the things that we do. Culture is understood as a way of life. And so that expands our thinking and our understanding…and fits well with health promotion or mental wellness promotion. Carol Hopkins

When we talk about culture as the foundation, it requires a paradigm shift, a different way of thinking. Because currently or historically we have been working with First Nations populations from understanding the deficits, the problems, the challenges…we have to start from the place of what are the strengths that we can draw on. That sets the foundation. Carol Hopkins

… if we don’t focus on the social determinants of health, if we don’t focus on those social factors, if we don’t focus on building on our experience and our strengths, if we don’t think about equity, and if we don’t think about wellness and thriving, if we don’t think about mental health promotion, it’s going to be really difficult for us to rebuild and have a resilient population coming out of this pandemic. Kwame McKenzie


February 17, 2022