Panel: Leveraging momentum in mental health promotion

This session featured three panelists with perspectives and expertise in areas experiencing momentum for advancing mental health promotion, including universal mental heath care, mitigating colonial harms through culture and community work, and Health in All Policies. Extending the keynote, panelists focused on evidence of momentum (what we see happening) and on ways to leverage positive momentum (how do we help change happen).

Key messages

    • The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the need for mental health supports, yet these remain inaccessible to many Canadians. A universal mental healthcare model with mental health promotion and prevention components would decrease rates of mental illness, increase equitable access to supports, and help ensure that social and economic conditions for good mental health are met.
    • In the absence of intervention and support, colonial harms compound to create cascades of challenges. Interventions that bolster Indigenous communities’ agency and that are culture-, language-, and land-focused help unpack and mitigate some of these harms.
    • Strong partnerships, intersectoral collaboration, and holistic policy planning are components of a Health in All Policies approach. These are also levers for positive momentum for population mental health wellbeing. Intersectoral collaborations are more successful when all stakeholders see their interests clearly represented. Agreeing on target objectives often requires broadening thinking beyond mental health outcomes and working within the space of intersectionality.



    • Dr. Katie Dowling, Postdoctoral fellow, KDE Hub for Mental Health Promotion


    • Shelley Cardinal, Senior Director of the Office of Indigenous Relations, Canadian Red Cross
    • Margaret Eaton, National Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association
    • Ketan Shankardass, Associate Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University

In the words of the speakers

I think that we can get siloed within mental health and so appealing to partners at a broader level is more about wellbeing … it’s the whole person we’re talking about … we’re not just talking about the 20% of people who may have a mental illness, we’re talking about the five out of five of us who all have mental health. Margaret Eaton

We know that when people are under-housed, when people end up in emergency rooms, that the cost to our healthcare system is huge. And so, if we can help them through mental health prevention and promotion, then we can prevent them from entering our overcrowded emergency rooms. The idea is to bolster mental health as opposed to waiting until people are in crisis to provide them with that healthcare. Margaret Eaton

… we’re at a critical time in that there’s so much more awareness around mental and emotional health. So, to me, it’s the time to push it! When there is an uptake and an understanding of what we need to focus on, and how important it is to focus on that, ‘Go for it!’… to me it’s kind of like push it, push it, push it, because really, there’s still such a long way to go. Shelley Cardinal

Communities and intersectionality understand ‘All My Relations.’ They understand looking at things from a holistic space. I think what happens is that often our funding mechanisms and our policy processes tend to disconnect things and make them stay disconnected … Our space and our concentration needs to be in that intersectionality. It needs to be in that intersectoral space to help push the policy drivers, to help push the education pieces, to say ‘we need to open this up.’ Working with Indigenous communities, we know that space already … we’re coming back to that space and there seems to be more and more partners that are understanding how to come back to that space. Shelley Cardinal

… while the pandemic has certainly had an outsized impact on mental health problems across the population, the pandemic happened in the context of a much longer-term growth in mental health inequality in this country …. And so, if we’re not going to stem that trend, and make working class people wealthier, then we have to think about how can we use more equity interventions to address differences in well-being. Ketan Shankardass

… ideally then we should be planning in a more holistic way with partners outside of the healthcare sector when we imagine how to improve mental health promotion. That’s the concepts behind Health in All Policies.” Ketan Shankardass

If you expect the local Chamber of Commerce, or your Ministry of Employment, or your Ministry of Industry to get on board with trying to change working conditions to promote mental health better, you need to have a focus on this broader concept and concepts that are going to appeal to them. And if the Chamber of Commerce cares about productivity and how better mental health will lead to a more productive workforce, even though that might not be your interest … if you want to have them as a partner, you need to find a way to frame and at least communicate why improving mental health will improve productivity. Ketan Shankardass

Resources related to this session

February 28, 2023