Yesterday, the Mental Health Commission released Canada’s first-ever mental health strategy. The strategy has been warmly welcomed by many working in mental health fields, including the Canadian Mental Health Association, who is celebrating Mental Health Week under the banner “mental health for all.”
The mental health strategy offers some promising directions for achieving good mental health and well-being for all Canadians. Acting on the social determinants of health was identified as a priority area. The Commission rightly argued that different populations face different barriers to good mental health and that interventions must be targeted to ensure that the right kinds of support are available and that supports meet each individual’s needs. This means that efforts to address social determinants must be coordinated across all levels of government and must include a broad range of social services, not just health care.
Also promising is the recommendation that health equity lenses be used to ensure that new mental health policies and programs reduce disparities while improving mental health for the population as a whole. The Commission referenced Ontario’s Health Equity Impact Assessment and argued that collecting better data, particularly for key sub-populations, on mental health inequities is critical to making progress.
The Wellesley Institute has previously worked with the Ontario branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA-O) to create an equity-focused report on Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, and last year Bob Gardner spoke to CMHA-O about integrating and operationalizing equity into mental health.
Attention will now turn to the federal government as they decide what their next steps are in implementing the mental health strategy. Mental health problems are complex and the solutions need to reflect this complexity. We congratulate the Mental Health Commission for taking an important step forward.