Connecting the dots: How Ontario public health units are addressing child and youth mental health

In brief

This report aims to lay the foundation for answering the question: what is the role of public health in mental health in Ontario? It presents the results of an online survey and interviews conducted with Ontario public health unit staff working on or overseeing mental health-related activities or initiatives.

EENet has developed a Research Report Round-up of the report, “Connecting the Dots: How Ontario Public Health Units are Addressing Child and Youth Mental Health.”  Research Report Round-ups are brief summaries of research reports, presented in a user-friendly format.

Read it below or download the PDF.

Title and link to report: 
Connecting the Dots: How Ontario Public Health Units are Addressing Child and Youth Mental Health

Établir les Liens: Comment les bureaux de santé publique de l’Ontario traitent la santé mentale des enfants et des jeunes

Authors: CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre, Public Health Ontario, Toronto Public Health 
Year: 2013
Type of study: Survey and key informant interviews
Report language: English and French

Location: Toronto

What this report is about

This report aims to lay the foundation for answering the question: what is the role of public health in mental health in Ontario? It presents the results of an online survey and interviews conducted with Ontario public health unit staff working on or overseeing mental health-related activities or initiatives.

The survey was designed to identify activities conducted to address the mental health of children and youth between the ages of 0 to 19. The interviews aimed to understand the strengths and challenges they experience when addressing the mental health of children and youth as well as to identify opportunities for support.

The survey results show that key characteristics of activities conducted to promote and address mental health in children and youth were:

  • The most common activities were programs delivered by public health units, followed by knowledge exchange and capacity building activities.
  • The most common target age-group was 14 to 18 years, followed 7 to 13 and 0 to 6.
  • The Ontario government is the most common activity funder, followed by local municipalities.
  • The most common motivation for undertaking an activity or initiative is local need or in response to a specific request. 
  • The Ontario Public Health Standards guidance documents are being used to guide activities.
  • Partnerships (both formal and informal) are present in most activities and initiatives.
  • Nearly half of all activities/initiatives were reported as being evaluated.

The most frequently identified enablers and barriers to addressing the mental health of children and youth were: 

Enablers

  • Partnerships
  • Embedded approaches to addressing child and youth mental health
  • Strong leadership and commitment within health units
  • Fundamental public health approaches, principles and frameworks
  • Health unit structure and size
  • Staff expertise 

Barriers

  • Lack of a provincial mandate contributing to unclear roles
  • Lack of dedicated resources Coordination challenges among community partners
  • Lack of focus on mental health promotion and mental illness prevention
  • Stigma Gaps in mental health service system/ unmet needs

Participants described the support they would like to receive, including:

  • Provincial guidance for the role of public health in mental health;
  • Identifying evidence on best practices;
  • Establishing mental health indicators;
  • Training public health staff;
  • Knowledge exchange among public health units and community partners;
  • Addressing larger mental health system service gaps. 

How this report can be used

This report can be used to start a discussion on the role of public health in mental health, and to explore the interaction between health units and mental health stakeholders, including service providers, community partners and government. 

Keywords

Mental health, public health, children and youth 

Contact persons:

CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre 33 Russell Street, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2S1 Telephone: 416 535-8501 www.camh.ca Public Health Ontario 480 University Avenue, Suite 300, Toronto, Ontario M5G 1V2 Telephone: 647 260-7100 www.publichealthontario.ca Toronto Public Health 277 Victoria Street, Toronto, Ontario M5B 1W2 Telephone: 416 338-7600 www.toronto.ca/health