Mental health - community strategies

Mental health is a state of wellbeing that allows us to realize our own potential, cope with normal stresses of life, work productively and contribute to our community.1 Mental health exists on a spectrum. Some Albertans will experience mental illness during their lifetime while others will have mental health concerns that may or may not become a mental illness. In 2012, 77% of Canadians were classified as having flourishing mental health, 22% had moderate mental health and 2% had declining mental health.2 

Promoting positive mental health is not simply an individual responsibility, it is also influenced by community environments.

When our communities think broadly and implement multi-component community-wide interventions, they are better able to strengthen four action areas: the social environment, the physical environment, the economic environment and policy change. These action areas are supported by community leadership and learning from experience.

Multi-component community-wide interventions to promote mental health may include developing holistic programs in schools and the community to promote wellbeing and mental health literacy. These programs might be complemented by communication and awareness campaigns to reduce the stigma of mental illness and to promote self-help resources that help individuals address challenges.

Although multi-component community-wide interventions are ideal, communities need to start where they are at! This may mean starting with one strategy, environment or setting and then building on it as you move towards thinking broadly about mental health.

Ways to take action

All of the evidence-informed strategies are tried, tested and useful strategies that are based on current research. See the methods section for more information on how these strategies were developed.

Changing the social environment is about building knowledge and awareness around mental health issues as well as providing tools, resources and supports to promote positive mental health.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the social environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the physical, economic and policy environments.

Changing the physical environment is about creating community spaces that support mental health, wellbeing and inclusion.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the physical environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, economic and policy environments.

Changing the economic environment is about ensuring that all community members have the financial resources necessary to prioritize their mental health by making services more affordable.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the economic environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, physical and policy environments.

Changing the policy environment is about developing policies that ensure all community members have the tools, resources and supports necessary for positive mental health.

Plan and implement multi-component community-wide interventions. When communities work to change the policy environment, it is important to do so in conjunction with changes to the social, economic and physical environments.

  1. World Health Organization (WHO). Mental health: a state of well being. Geneva (SW):World Health Organization; 2014. Available from: http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/.
  2. Statistics Canada. Positive mental health and mental illness. Ottawa (ON): Statistics Canada; 2015. Available from: https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2014009/article/14086-eng.htm
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