Creating Mentally Healthy Communities, Starting with Children

December 11, 2008

Charlotte Waddell, Cody Shepherd, and George McLauchlin. (2008). Creating mentally healthy communities, starting with children. In Mentally healthy communities: A collection of papers (pp. 45–58). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Institute for Health Information.

In keeping with current definitions used by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is a state of social and emotional well-being, not merely the absence of disorder. As such, mental health is a resource for living, essential for all children to thrive and essential for optimal human development and functioning across the lifespan. Addressing the determinants of mental health and disorder in childhood may be the most effective way to improve the mental health of the population. Here, we consider what is needed to create mentally healthy communities in Canada, starting with children. We begin by describing the current state of children’s mental health in Canada, including the high prevalence of disorders, the current public policy response and the need for a new integrated population health strategy. This strategy suggests several complementary approaches to creating mentally healthy communities. We then consider each of these approaches in turn: promoting healthy development for all children; preventing disorders in children at risk; providing treatment for children with disorders; and monitoring outcomes for all children. We conclude by discussing the implications for new investments to create mentally healthier communities in Canada.

See PDF here.