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Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Older Adults 55+

Submitted by CAMH Resource Centre

Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Older Adults 55+


New! Now available for download as PDF in English and French!

As the aging population in Canada grows, addressing the mental health of older people is a demographic imperative. Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Older Adults 55+ is the second in a series of online guides for promoting positive mental health across the lifespan. This resource has been developed to support health and social service providers in incorporating best practice approaches to mental health promotion interventions for people aged 55 years and older.

The resource includes:

  • Guidelines: 11 best practice guidelines for mental health promotion with older people.
  • Background: Describes how older adults are defined in this resource.
  • Exemplary programs: Describes several programs that incorporate good practice and exemplify the guidelines.
  • Outcome and process indicators: Provides examples of indicators for measuring program success.
  • Theory: Provides definitions and underlying concepts, with a focus on promoting resilience.
  • Resources: Provides a worksheet and sample to help plan and implement mental health promotion initiatives, plus a list of web resources, and glossary.
  • References and Acknowledgements

The resource is available for download in PDF at:

The Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs is a joint project between the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health; the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto; and Toronto Public Health.


For further information about this resource, please contact:
Tamar Meyer

Health Promotion Consultant

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





2627 Hits

Highlights and Interpretation of the Resource - Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts

By Kyley Alderson

Resource- Social Determinants of Health: The Canadian Facts (Mikkonen, J. & Raphael, D., 2010)

Overview of this document:

This document promotes awareness about the health inequities that exist here, in Canada. It explains various factors present in our society, and how exactly they contribute to poor health (i.e. the Social Determinants of Health). For each of these determinants, statistics are given to compare how Canada is doing compared to the rest of the developed Nations. As well, public policies are suggested for how we can begin to improve our health. These policies focus on the source of the problems (such as living conditions) rather than just dealing with the symptoms, which is where we usually tend to focus (such as diet and exercise, or chronic disease management). This document not only shows how important policy decisions are for our heath, it also emphases that it is up to us, as Canadian citizens, to remain informed on how these policies affect our health, and how to support candidates of political parties that are receptive to this.

As such, this resource is intended to act as an agent for political change, by informing and encouraging the general public to act on the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH). If you have time to read the full document, I highly recommend it, especially if you are not familiar with the SDOH. However, if you are like most people and don’t have time, here is a brief summary I have pulled together.

Also, here is a diagram I created on the major policy implications suggested in this document as ways to improve the impact of the SDOH. Increasing minimum wage and social assistance programs affect all of the SDOH, but there are also policy implications more related to specific determinants:




In this document, I was surprised to read that:

  • While Canada is one of the biggest spenders in health care, we have one of the worst records in providing an effective social safety net. How much sense does it make to spend all of our money on treating illnesses, when we send people back to the same conditions that made them sick? Furthermore, why not spend more money on trying to prevent illness in the first place?
  • Canada is even worse than the United States on supporting childcare and early childhood education. On a list of the 25 wealthiest developed Nations, Canada ranks 24th out of 25 Nations on public expenditures on Childcare and Early Educational Services, whereas the US ranks 16th. There is a strong relationship between a parents socioeconomic status and their children’s developmental outcomes, and one way to weaken this relationship would be to provide high quality early childhood education regardless of a parents wealth.

I think most Canadians are not aware that:

  • Social exclusion (specific groups being denied the opportunity to participate in Canadian life) is a big reality in our society today. Excluded groups in Canada (listed by Mikkonen and Raphael) include Aboriginal Canadians, Canadians of colour, recent immigrants, women, and people with disabilities. We can see social exclusion in our society by the segregation of these groups into certain neighborhoods, as well as disproportionate unemployment rates, and employment in lower-income sectors and occupations for these populations. This document contains shocking statistics on the importance of gender, race, and Aboriginal Status on average income:
    • Women tend to earn less than man regardless of occupation. Men working in management earn an average of $1261 per week and women $956.

    • The average income for all Canadian men is $36,800, compared to the average income for men in the Haitian community is $21,595.

    • The average income of an Aboriginal man is only 58% of the average income of a non-Aboriginal man.

An important consideration this document highlights:

  • The manner by which some social determinants influence the population’s health is shaped by our current public policies, and therefore the SDOH are not going to be the same for all countries. For example, if adequate income and necessary services, such as childcare, were provided to all in Canada, the health threatening effects of education would be much less.

Now what?

Unfortunately, the people most affected by the SDOH, generally, have the least amount of power in society, and their voice is not the one being heard by most political leaders. It is up to all of us to put health on the political agenda. One can’t simply blame political parties for their decisions when these decisions are based on the values of Canadians who elected them in the first place. We must demand that elected representatives commit themselves to address these issues, and that we elect those who will promote the health of Canadians through Healthy Public Policy. After all, it is not just the health of those with the least amount of resources that will be improved; everyone’s health improves when the gap in health disparities is reduced.

However, the people who hold the majority of power in society and who may not understand the social determinants of health, most likely are not reading this document. I only heard about this document through a health promotion listserv that I am on. So, the question remains, how do we get this information out to those who currently don’t understand the impact of the SDOH, and how do we convey to certain populations (who may not be adversely affected by the SDOH) to still get involved in these discussions? Furthermore, how do we get those who may not currently be holding the power in society to get involved in these discussions? How do we switch the thinking of the greater population from an ideology of individualism to one of cohesion and solidarity?

Lastly, I would like to mention that this document shed light on many of the things Canada is doing wrong, however, I hope there are some indicators related to the SDOH that Canada is not ranking so poorly on compared to other developed Nations. While sharing the negative may get some people heated and ready to act, we must make sure to focus on the strengths of Canada’s heath and public policies as well, so that we have a good place to begin working from, and can leverage support that way.

I welcome any comments and would love to discuss this further with you!

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John Ott Explains the difference between Kronos and Kairos time


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Looking Back Before Looking Ahead

By Dianne Coppola

For many of us, December is a frenzy of holiday activity where the days never seem quite long enough to plow through our "to do" lists. I find myself saying things like... "Where did the day, week, month, year go?" Unfortunately, the quick answer is never all that satisfying!

As someone who is committed to lifelong learning and self-improvement, I regularly read books, blogs and e-news bits on leadership, facilitation, and planning. I particularly enjoy Kevin Eikenberry, Chief Potential Officer (isn’t that a great job title?) of the Kevin Eikenberry Group ( and author of Remarkable Leadership.

This week, Kevin wrote about the importance of taking time to reflect on the past year in order to inform planning and goal setting for the coming year. This is an important but often neglected activity for both personal and professional renewal. After all, how can we determine where we want to go if we don’t know where we’ve been, what the journey has been like and what we accomplished?

I encourage you can take a few quiet moments amidst the holiday festivities to reflect on a few of the questions Kevin posed to his readership, before dashing into 2012! I think you’ll find it’s one of the better gifts you can give yourself.
Happy Reflections!

  • What did I accomplish this year?
  • What accomplishment am I most proud of?
  • Knowing what I know now, what would I do differently?
  • How did I contribute?
  • What were my biggest challenges or obstacles?
  • What did I overcome, and how?
  • What did I learn?
  • Who are the most interesting people I have met, and why?
  • What else do I want to reflect on?

Bonus: These questions can also be applied to the organization you work or volunteer with and/or the community partnership you are a member of.

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Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) released the 2011 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS) on November 29th, 2011.  Led by Dr. Robert Mann, CAMH Senior Scientist and Principal Investigator on the survey, the OSDUHS is the longest running school survey of adolescents in Canada and one of the longest in the world.  This year, 9288 Ontario students in grades 7 – 12 participated in the OSDUHS survey.  The survey is conducted every two years to measure drug and alcohol use (including tobacco), mental and physical health, along with risk and protective factors.  Results are compared across four regions in Ontario: Toronto, Northern Ontario, Western Ontario, and Eastern Ontario.  This year, the report focused on alcohol, tobacco, illicit and non-medical use of prescription drugs.  Between 2009 and 2011, there was no observed increase in any drug use.  Between 1999 and 2011, drug use, including alcohol, binge drinking, cannabis, opioid pain relievers, cigarettes, appears to have significantly decreased, with no differences for gender and grade levels.  OSDUHS also reported on long-term trends for grade 7, 9 and 11 students only, from 1977-2011.  From this data, the present prevalence of cigarette smoking is at an all time low, with generally low level use of alcohol, binge drinking, and other drugs (similar to early 1990s).  There were reportedly fewer students using drugs and alcohol at an early age. 

Current levels of cigarette, alcohol, cannabis and prescription drugs use were also reported. 

  • Smoking: 9% of students (an estimated 88,000 students) in Ontario smoked, with 4% on a daily basis.  Smoking increased with grade level, and no differences were observed between males and females.  Northern regions reported more smoking than other regions.
  • Drinking: 55% of students (an estimated 551,400 students) reported drinking alcohol last year.  Drinking, like smoking, increased with grade level, and no differences were observed between males and females.  Similarly, students in Northern regions were more likely to drink.  For binge drinking, defined as having five or more drinks on one occasion, 22% of students (an estimated 223,500) reported having engaged in this behaviour at least once during the four week weeks prior to the survey.   
  • Cannabis: 22% of students (an estimated 221,900 students) report cannabis use in past year.  Cannabis use increased with grade level, and both females and males were equally likely to use the substance.  Students in Toronto were the least likely to use cannabis, compared to student in the North, who were most likely to use. 
  • Non-medical use of prescription drugs: about 1% of students (an estimated 12,500 of students) reported using OxyContin, and 14% (an estimated 140,100) reported using any prescription painkillers.  Use increased with grade level, but no significant gender differences were observed.  There were no significant regional variations.

The full report is available for download from CAMH

Look on HC Link for news of an upcoming CAMH webinar in the New Year on the OSDUHS results, including a Q&A session with the OSDUHS research team.

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