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Connecting the Dots: No Public Health without Mental Health

By Monica Nunes, CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre

A new research report released last week shows that public health units in this province are doing a substantial amount of mental health promotion work among children and youth, even without having a specific mandate to do so.

"In Ontario, the core business of public health encompasses illness prevention and health promotion, yet, the role of public health in the mental health of Ontarians, has not been well-described," says Christie Collins-Williams, Manager of Health Promotion and Prevention, in CAMH's Provincial System Support Program. For instance the Ontario Public Health Standards, which guides the work of public health units, lacks an explicit mandate to address mental health.



The report, Connecting the Dots: How Public Health Units in Ontario are Addressing Child and Youth Mental Health, produced by the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre, Public Health Ontario, and Toronto Public Health, addresses the question of how mental health fits into public health. Surveying Ontario's 36 public health units, researchers found a total of 325 activities and initiatives that promote mental health in children and youth including parenting and school-based programs.


One example of these activities is 'Can You Feel It?' developed by Sudbury and District Health Unit. 'Can You Feel It?' is a stress workshop and resource guide for students in Grades 5 to 12. The resource is designed to help provide students with an opportunity to start building the necessary life skills to manage and cope with the stress in their everyday lives by helping students understand how their bodies react to their individual stresses and how they can cope with stress in a healthy way.

 In the report, survey participants explain the supportive factors for their work, including strong partnerships and evidence on best practices, as well as the barriers, such as the lack of a clear mandate.

The overall question of the role of public health in mental health is not a new one, yet it remains largely unresolved in Ontario. At a webinar on July 10th which launched Connecting the Dots, a panel of public health stakeholders including Dr. Heather Manson (Chief, Health Promotion, Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention at Public Health Ontario), Lynne Hanna (Manager, School Years Health, Halton Region Health Department) and Dr. Robin Williams (Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario) reflected on this question. Through their discussion with audience participants, the panelists discussed opportunities for clarifying the role of Ontario's public health units in mental health promotion using the present research as a foundation.


(From L-R) Tamar Meyer (CAMH), Jan Lancaster (Toronto Public Health), Christie Collins-Williams (CAMH), Jessica Patterson (Toronto Public Health), Monica Nunes (CAMH), Heather Manson (Public Health Ontario), Lynne Hanna (Halton Region Health Department), Phat Ha (Public Health Ontario) presented at a webinar on July 10th to launch the Connecting the Dots report.

For more information on Connecting the Dots, please see the links below.

View the full report
View the English summary
View the French summary
View the July 10th webinar slides and recording

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