Best practice guidelines for mental health promotion programs: Children and youth

Research Report Round-up

By Emma Firsten -Kaufman

In brief

In Ontario, improving child and youth mental health was highlighted as a provincial priority, as described in the government of Ontario's mental health strategy, Open Minds, Healthy Minds: Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, released in 2011.

Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Children and Youth, originally released in 2007, is the first in a series of online guides for promoting mental health across all age groups. Updated in 2014, this resource provides health and social service providers (“practitioners”) with up-to-date, evidence-based approaches to apply mental health promotion concepts and principles in the programs they deliver for children and youth. This resource highlights ten guidelines that define best practices for promoting the mental health of children and youth.

In this Research Report Round-up, we provide a summary of this report. To read it click here. Research Report Round-ups are brief summaries of research reports, presented in a user-friendly format.

Watch a report launch webinar recording, download the presentation slides or view additional resources.

Title and link to report: Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Children and Youth  

Authors: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Dalla Lana School of Public Health (University of Toronto), and Toronto Public Health 

Year: 2014

Location: Toronto

Population addressed: Children (ages 7-12) and youth (ages 13-19) in Canada 

Type of study: The original draft of these guidelines was based on the findings of a research report from 2003 titled "Analysis of Best Practices in Mental Health Promotion across the Lifespan," by Catherine Willinsky and Anne Anderson from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and Toronto Public Health

Keywords: Mental health promotion, best practices, children, youth 

Contact person/source: Tamar Meyer, Supervisor, Health Promotion Resource Centre , Provincial System Support Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, tamar [dot] meyer [at] camh [dot] ca

Language: English

What this report is about

In Ontario, improving child and youth mental health has been highlighted as a provincial priority, as described in Open Minds, Healthy Minds: Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy (Government of Ontario, 2011).

Originally released in 2007, Best Practice Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion Programs: Children and Youth is the first in a series of online guides for promoting mental health across all age groups. Updated in 2014, this resource provides health and social service providers (“practitioners”) with up-to-date, evidence-based approaches to applying mental health promotion concepts and principles in the programs they deliver for children and youth.

This resource highlights ten guidelines that define best practices for promoting the mental health of children and youth. The guidelines are: 

  • Address and modify any risk or protective factors, including determinants of health, that indicate possible mental health concerns;
  • Intervene in multiple settings (such as school, daycare, home, community);
  • Focus on building skills, empowerment, self-efficacy, and resilience;
  • Train non-professionals to establish caring and trusting relationships with children and youth;
  • Involve multiple stakeholders including students, school staff, parents, family members, community members, and others in program planning, development and implementation;
  • Help develop comprehensive support systems that focus on peer and parent–child relations and academic performance;
  • Adopt multiple interventions, including out-of-school-time programs, parent support groups, self-help groups, and skill-building workshops;
  • Address opportunities for organizational change, policy development, and advocacy;
  • Demonstrate a long-term commitment to program planning, development, and evaluation;
  • Ensure that the information and services you provide are culturally appropriate, equitable, and holistic.

The document also includes:

  • A background on how children and youth are defined by the authors;
  • Definitions and explanations of underlying concepts, such as health promotion and mental health;
  • Examples of mental health programs that incorporate best practices;
  • Examples of outcome and process indicators for measuring program success;
  • A worksheet for practitioners to plan, implement, and adapt mental health promotion programs. 

How can this report be used

Practitioners and program planners can use these guidelines to plan, implement, and adapt mental health promotion programs for children and youth. 

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