Promoting Child and Youth Mental Health in Atlantic Canada: Call to Action

Draft – July 19, 2017

 “When we think of mental health we often think of emotional difficulties and mental health problems and how we can resolve a crisis once it has occurred. This thinking demands an investment after the fact or ‘downstream’. ‘Upstream’ thinking means investing wisely for future success and addressing the broader determinants of mental health at a population level. We view mental health as a resource for all that requires a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach. Although there is evidence to support an ‘upstream’ view, our current investment in policies and practice is ‘downstream’ and we will need a change in public and political support to think and invest differently.”  – ASI 2017 keynote speaker, Professor Margaret Barry, WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion Research, National University of Ireland, Galway.

INTRODUCTION

Raising healthy children is a responsibility of all Canadians. Supporting and promoting child and youth mental health is central to enabling them to become life-long, positive contributors to their communities and society. Strengthening policies and programs that support positive mental health for children and youth is vital to creating a sustainable and inclusive Atlantic Canada.

The Atlantic Summer Institute on Healthy and Safe Communities (ASI) has provided an Atlantic platform for inter-sectoral collaboration to promote child and youth mental health in the region. ASI hosted a Symposium on Child and Youth Mental Health Promotion in 2015 to bring together a broad range of groups – public, non-profit, academic and private sectors, including education, health, community services, justice and community organizations – to find ways to have a collective impact to improve child and youth mental health. The emphasis is on mental health promotion, through upstream investment for downstream benefits.

Building on the momentum from the past 2 years of ASI programming, which focused on emerging evidence and best practices that promote positive child and youth mental health in schools and communities, ASI 2017  was designed to generate a Call to Action based on evidence for polices, programs and best practices discussed and showcased at the event. Two documents have been developed to inform discussions, an Atlantic Profile of Child and Youth Mental Health and a Backgrounder on Child and Youth Mental Health Promotion that has compiled research and evidence from a variety of sources to inform policies, programs and practices that support child and youth mental health.

This draft Call to Action is emerging from the planning for ASI 2017 and offers a framework that can be filled in before the August event and at the event. The first public draft will be posted on the ASI website in mid-July, with communications going out to draw attention to it. The final version of the Call to Action will be released at the end of the event on August 23, 2017.

The success of this Call to Action will be in the hands of diverse stakeholders from Atlantic Canada, other provinces and territories, the federal government, and pan-Canadian organizations. Below we set out clear actions that can be taken up by various stakeholders to implement a more sustainable approach to promoting child and youth mental health. 

 

GOAL AND OBJECTIVES

The goal of the Call to Action is to build on existing efforts to create a more sustainable approach to promoting child and youth mental health in Atlantic Canada.

The objectives of the Call to Action are to:

  1. Catalyze concrete, cross-sectoral responses for mental health promotion.
  2. Influence decision making in Atlantic Canada and across the country.

PRINCIPLES

We are using these principles as guideposts to action. Detailed definitions are in the Backgrounder.

  • Equity
  • Inclusion
  • Cultural Safety
  • Life-course Perspective
  • Respecting Rights of Children
  • Respecting Voices of Lived Experience
  • “Mental health in all” Policies
  • Evidence-based Decision Making
  • Sustainability of Policies and Programs

ENABLING CONDITIONS

These conditions are required to achieve our goal.

  • Common Language
  • Population Health Approach
  • Cross-sectoral Collaboration
  • Partnerships Committed to Common Goal
  • Capacity Building
  • Policy and Program Integration
  • Outcome and Process Evaluation
  • Collective Impact
  • Return on Investment
  • Knowledge Sharing, Translation and Mobilization
  • Data Infrastructure to Inform Policy and Program Development

CONTEXT

This year is a defining moment for Canada and its many nations. The Report of the Commission on Truth and Reconciliation is the ultimate call to action, and perhaps the most pressing. There are many other organizations at the national, regional and provincial levels that are focusing on child and youth mental health. This Call to Action builds upon and makes strategic links to many existing provincial, territorial, and pan-Canadian strategies and policy reports. The Backgrounder in preparation will provide a comprehensive overview of this work. A few highlights are presented here as context for the actions outlined below.

  • First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework (2015) – Assembly of First Nations, Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, the National Native Addictions Partnership Foundation, Native Mental Health Association, and other community mental health leaders.
  • Mental Health Summit: Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention for All (2012). Hosted by Government of Manitoba and Healthy Child Manitoba.
  • Mental Health Summit Follow-up: Think Tank Proceedings Report (2013). Public Health Agency of Canada, Mental Health Commission of Canada, Manitoba Mental Health and Spiritual Health Care, and Healthy Child Manitoba.
  • Maximizing Social Impacts and Returns on Investment: Towards a Sustainable Prevention Infrastructure for Population Mental Health Promotion and Mental Illness Prevention in Canada (2014). Mental Health Summit Network.
  • Population Mental Health Promotion for Children and Youth – Topical Papers and Resources (2017) National Collaborating Centres for Public Health.
  • Positive Mental Health Toolkit, 2nd Ed. (2016), Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health.
  • The SEAK (Social and Emotional Learning for Kids) Project, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • Positive Population Mental Health Surveillance Indicator Framework for Youth (2017). Public Health Agency of Canada.
  • State of the Child Report 2016 – New Brunswick: Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
  • New Brunswick Provincial Mental Health Forum
  • ACCESS Open Minds Eskasoni and NB – community based safe spaces to connect youth with care funded by CIHR, Medavie, NBHRC and the Graham Boeckh Foundation
  • International Youth Mental Health Declaration, a global statement of youth sponsored by the International association for youth mental health

All of these reports are pieces of the puzzle of child and youth mental health promotion. Taken together, a clear picture emerges. The Backgrounder puts them all together in one place for all to view.

ACTIONS

This Call to Action builds on the Mental Health Summit Network report, which outlines ways of building capacity and collective impact, choosing approaches for sustainable system transformation, advancing evidence on returns on investment for mental health promotion, promoting existing best and promising practices upon which future efforts can build, and implementing and sustaining programs, practices, and policies for promoting child and youth mental health.

The success of this Call to Action will be in the hands of diverse stakeholders from Atlantic Canada, other provinces and territories, the federal government, and pan-Canadian organizations. Below we set out clear actions that can be taken up by various stakeholders to implement more sustainable infrastructure for promoting child and youth mental health.

Policy

Intersectoral policies (i.e. education, health, social, justice) to support child and youth mental health in everyday settings, home, school, community. Suggestions of specific examples welcome.

Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET) as focus for policy advocacy. Suggestions of specific examples welcome.

Program

Scale up and mainstreaming of successful programs, e.g. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Suggestions of other examples welcome.

Practices

Support for best, most promising practices that are evidence-based, e.g. BRAVE

Build a Community of Practice for Promoting Child and Youth Mental Health

Knowledge

Build a knowledge base of research findings, evaluation results and other evidence of successful approaches to promoting child and youth mental health, e.g. Healthy Young People Everywhere (HYPE).

Develop methods for maintaining, updating and sharing information in the knowledge base.

Create interdepartmental agreements to share data and indicators that illustrate factors that contribute to health (0verall) – examples of local authorities who are collecting data differently.

Measures of success – use common indicators for collective impact.

Resources needed to measure success.

Develop case studies for investing in upstream efforts that comes from data.

Expand/Leverage Networks

Seek opportunities through network activities to advance a shared agenda, e.g. CAMET, NCC Forum, network mapping.

 

Draft by: Malcolm Shookner, Christopher Canning, Lara di Tomasso, Barbara Broom, Andrea Simpson, Joanne Elliott, Patsy Beattie-Huggan.

July 19, 2017

APPENDIX 1 – CONTEXT

BACKGROUNDER