Innovation Strategy: Equipping Canadians – Mental Health Throughout Life

From Public Health Agency of Canada

Mental health is the capacity for us to:

  • enhance our ability to enjoy life through:
    • actions
    • feelings
    • thoughts
  • deal with the challenges we face
  • have a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being
  • respect the importance of:
    • culture
    • personal dignity
    • equity and social justice
    • relationships

Good mental health supports personal well-being and long-term health. It can positively impact many aspects of life, such as:

  • education
  • employment
  • relationships
  • social participation

Poor mental health can lead to mental and physical illness.

In Canada:

  • 1 in 3 people will be affected by a mental illness during their lifetime
  • 1 in 7 people will use health services for a mental illness

Mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression are becoming as common as heart disease, diabetes and other chronic (long-term) conditions.

A key priority area for the Public Health Agency of Canada's Innovation Strategy is to address mental health promotion and wellness.

We must address these issues across the life course for individuals, families and communities.

The Innovation Strategy's Equipping Canadians – Mental Health Throughout Life projects deliver innovative, evidence-based programming. Projects have served more than 1.5 million people in:

  • more than 800 communities
  • 10 provinces
  • 3 territories

Areas of focus for these mental health projects include:

  • culturally based, family-centred mental health promotion for Aboriginal youth
  • mobilization of communities to address risk and protective factors influencing the mental health of Indigenous youth
  • healthy relationships, resilience skills and peaceful conflict resolution
  • prevention of bullying, peer victimization and school-based violence among adolescents 

Funded projects timeline

The timeline explains the descriptions, durations and number of projects funded in each phase:

  • phase 1: a 1-year duration to design, develop, test and deliver the initial program
    • 15 funded projects
  • phase 2: up to a 4-year duration for full implementation, adaptation and evaluation of the program
    • 9 funded projects
  • phase 3: a 3-year duration to scale up to expand the reach, sustainability and system-wide impact of the project and implement it in new communities
    • 4 funded projects

Phase 3 funded projects

The Innovation Strategy's Equipping Canadians - Mental Health Throughout Life projects have worked across Canada to promote mental health and well-being for individuals, families and communities.

This includes 4 funded projects in phase 3.

  1. The Fourth R: Promoting Youth Well-Being through Healthy Relationships
  2. Scaling Up Social and Emotional Learning Programs in Atlantic Canada
  3. Listening to One Another to Grow Strong: Culturally Based, Family Centred Mental Health Promotion for Indigenous Youth
  4. Handle with Care: Promoting Mental Health of Young Children in Communities At-risk for Mental Health Problems – Scaling Up

The Fourth R: Promoting Youth Well-Being through Healthy Relationships

The Fourth R: Promoting Youth Well-Being through Healthy Relationships is a school-based program intended for youth in grades 7 to 12. The program is based on the assumption that knowledge and skills around relationships can and should be taught in the same way as reading, writing and arithmetic.

In the name of the program, the fourth ‘R' stands for relationships.

The program targets multiple forms of violence, including:

  • bullying
  • dating violence
  • peer violence
  • group violence

The Fourth R program addresses adolescent risk behaviours by focusing on relationship goals and challenges that influence their decision-making. Engagement includes:

  • teachers, through the delivery of the program
  • students, through:
    • active learning
    • peer mentoring
    • role modelling of appropriate behaviours
  • parents, through outreach and communication about the program

Numerous Indigenous extensions of this program have also been successfully implemented.

This project is implementing this initiative in:

  • Alberta
  • Ontario
  • Nova Scotia
  • Saskatchewan
  • Northwest Territories

The program is run by Western University/ the Centre for School Mental Health in London, Ontario.

For more information, refer to:

Scaling Up Social and Emotional Learning Programs in Atlantic Canada

The intervention implemented through Scaling Up Social and Emotional Learning Programs in Atlantic Canada is a school-based program. Grounded in social and emotional learning, the program helps children to:

  • recognize and manage emotions
  • develop caring and concern for others
  • decrease aggressive behaviour
  • make responsible and ethical decisions
  • build positive relationships

The program, called Socially and Emotionally Aware Kids, is intended for primary school settings, from kindergarten to Grade 6. In addition to implementing this initiative in select schools, this project serves as an interprovincial collaborative hub. It helps to integrate social and emotional learning into provincial education:

  • policies
  • plans
  • strategies

This project is being implemented in:

  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Newfoundland and Labrador

The program is run by the Canadian Mental Health Association, Nova Scotia Division, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

For more information, refer to:

Listening to One Another to Grow Strong: Culturally Based, Family Centred Mental Health Promotion for Indigenous Youth

Listening to One Another to Grow Strong is a community-based program intended to:

  • promote mental health
  • contribute to the prevention of suicide-related behaviours among Indigenous youth

The core of the intervention is a 14-session group experiential learning program for Indigenous children ages 10 to 14 and their parents or caretakers. The program curriculum and support for trainers is intended to allow autonomous delivery of the program by local Indigenous facilitators with experience in the area of mental health.

Activities have been implemented in:

  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Manitoba
  • British Columbia

Local communities implementing the program typically choose to adapt the curriculum and tailor it to the context, history and language of their local community. This process is done in consultation with community Elders and knowledge holders who integrate local context and wisdom into the curriculum.

Lessons are built around mental health promotion themes, such as:

  • socio-emotional skills
  • anger management
  • child-parent communication
  • handling peer pressure

Local history and cultural activities are integrated into the program curriculum. Strengthening culture is a key underlying theme for the duration of the program and beyond.

A version of this program is being created to allow its implementation in school settings.

The program is run by:

  • The Culture and Mental Health Research Unit of the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research, affiliated with the Jewish General Hospital and McGill University, located in Montreal, Quebec.

For more information, refer to:

Handle with Care: Promoting Mental Health of Young Children in Communities At-risk for Mental Health Problems – Scaling Up

Handle with Care is a program designed to help parents and other caregivers, to promote the mental health of their children from birth to 6 years old.

The program is 8 sessions built around themes such as:

  • attachment
  • trust
  • self-esteem
  • expressing emotions
  • relationships

Activities have been implemented in:

  • Yukon
  • Alberta
  • Ontario
  • Manitoba
  • Nunavut
  • Nova Scotia
  • New Brunswick
  • British Columbia
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Newfoundland and Labrador

These activities include:

  • simple interactive strategies to help parents and caregivers to promote the social and emotional well-being of children
  • delivery in group or in one-on-one settings
  • culturally adapted interactive learning activities offered by trained local facilitators, including:
    • discussion
    • stories
    • videos
    • role play
    • games

The program is run by The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre in Toronto, Ontario.

For more information, refer to:

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