Panel and participant dialogue on helping Mental Health Promotion flourish in Canada

Primed with the pre-recorded presentations and participant questions submitted in advance, this live session was an opportunity for dialogue. Keynote speakers were joined by three additional panelists – all leading thinkers and actors and all with unique vantage points on mental health promotion. The discussion sought to surface points of consensus, difference, windows of opportunity, obstacles. Participants were invited to come prepared to listen, engage, reflect, and then carry their thoughts into the next session to generate actions for how to help mental health promotion flourish.

Key messages

    • A short video with voices and visuals from the MHP-IF projects reminded us of a compelling ‘why’ for growing mental health promotion in Canada.
    • What is most needed for helping mental health promotion flourish is a fundamentally different social contract for mental health centered on equity and accountability for achieving it. “Make inequity illegal.”
    • A new social contract must include health systems and pandemic recovery that are based on a holistic view of health; systems that do not separate physical and mental health.
    • Mental wellness concepts that span multiple worldviews would also be helpful. Examples of these may be hope, meaning, purpose and belonging from Indigenous mental wellness.
    • Large system and structural changes are doable, especially when supported by leadership, programming and evidence at the local level.
    • There are many levers for helping mental health promotion flourish. Some highlighted were: relationships, data, legislation, storytelling, research, leadership, followership, culture (including the importance of Indigenous leadership in the planning, design, and implementation of programs, research, and use of data).


    • Barb Riley (session chair and moderator), Scientific Director, KDE Hub for Mental Health Promotion
    • Claire Betker, Scientific Director, National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health
    • Carol Hopkins, Chief Executive Officer, Thunderbird Partnership Foundation
    • Pascale Mantoura, Senior Scientific Advisor, Institut national de santé publique du Québec
    • Kwame McKenzie, CEO, Wellesley Institute
    • Brenda Restoule, CEO, First Peoples Wellness Circle

In the words of the speakers

We need to invest in reconciliation and recognize the contributions, the evidence, and the knowledge that comes from Indigenous people to help in structuring a new way of doing business in this country. Brenda Restoule

We need to tap into the expertise and the leadership of communities, because we know that how we do things is as important or even more important than what we’re doing. Pascale Mantoura

We set up a pandemic response that we knew was going to be inequitable. And as we saw the infections rise, and as we saw the hospitalizations rise and as we saw the deaths rise, we didn’t change direction in most places. In Canada, we knew this was going to happen. The question we have to ask ourselves is how can that be reasonable or legal? Kwame McKenzie

[A hundred years ago] we evolved societies and health systems to look after people’s physical health because you needed people physically healthy to work, to create wealth. What is different now, for service economies and thought economies, you need people who are mentally well… We have to evolve our way of thinking. Kwame McKenzie

We all want hope. We all need to know that we belong. From a First Nations, Métis, and Inuit perspective, we know we belong to this land… Our health and wellness is not optional. We belong in relationship with all of the visitors that made this country their home. And those relationships are critically important for developing an attitude towards wellness, towards life that has meaning for all. Carol Hopkins

Health promotion is making sure we all understand that we have purpose, our lives have meaningThe Creator gave us everything we need to live a good life. Our responsibility is to create the environment that nurtures that good life. Carol Hopkins

Anyone who has paddled or tried to row in a stream against it knows it’s hard work. Sometimes you have to go over into an eddy and wait for a while and take a breath, rest, and regroup, but it’s doable. You can paddle upstream and go towards the headwaters. Claire Betker

Resources related to this session

February 17, 2022