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Connecting the Dots: How Ontario Public Health Units are Addressing Child and Youth Mental Health is the final report of a research study conducted by Public Health Ontario, the CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre and Toronto Public Health.
Mental health is a key component of overall health and wellbeing. However, the role of public health in mental health in Ontario has not been well-described. For instance, the Ontario Public Health Standards (which guides the work of public health units) lacks an explicit mandate to address mental health, even though public health’s core business is preventing illness and promoting health.
Many factors shape and influence the role of public health units in addressing mental health in children and youth. Some of these, like strong partnerships, are supportive in nature, while others, like the lack of a clear mandate, present barriers.
The purpose of this research study was to understand how Ontario’s 36 public health units address and promote mental health in children and youth. Overall, a total of 325 mental health promotion and mental illness prevention activities and initiatives were reported. These ranged from the Positive Parenting Program to Regional Suicide Prevention Coalitions to Gay Straight Alliance Support.
The findings give insight into the types of supports public health units need to better promote mental health. Future discussion and research should explore these suggested supports. The present research contributes to an understanding of the role of public health in mental health but is still cursory in nature—this research will hopefully stimulate further discussion towards meaningful outcomes on this important issue.