Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada

In brief

This report presents the first mental health strategy for Canada. It was developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in consultation with people living with mental health problems and illnesses, families, stakeholder organizations, governments, and experts. The report offers recommendations for action grouped into six strategic directions.

EENet has developed a Research Report Round-up of the report, “Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada.”  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:
Changing directions, changing lives: The mental health strategy for Canada

Changer les orientations, changer les vies : Straté gie en matière de santé mentale pour le Canada

Author: Mental Health Commission of Canada

Year: 2012

Location: Calgary
Language of report: English and French

What this report is about

This report presents the first mental health strategy for Canada. It was developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in consultation with people living with mental health problems and illnesses, families, stakeholder organizations, governments, and experts.

The Strategy was developed in two phases. The first was completed in 2009 with release of the “Toward Recovery and Well-Being: A Framework for a Mental Health Strategy for Canada”. The Framework put forward a vision and goals based on the emerging consensus in the mental health community of what Canada’s mental health system should look like.

The second phase is marked by the release of this report, which offers recommendations for action grouped into six strategic directions:

  1. Promote mental health in homes, schools, and workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible. Promote and prevent efforts in everyday settings, where the potential impact is greatest.
  2. Foster recovery and well-being for people of all ages living with mental health problems and illnesses, and uphold their rights. Help people find the right combination of services, treatments, and supports, and remove barriers to full participation in work, education, and community life. 

3. Give people access to the right combination of services, treatments, and supports, when and where they need them. This includes primary health care, community-based and specialized mental health services, peer support, as well as supported housing, education, and employment.

4. Reduce gaps in risk factors and access to mental health services, and improve the response to the needs of diverse communities and Northerners. Take mental health into account when acting to improve living conditions and addressing the specific needs of groups such as new Canadians and people in northern and remote communities.

5. Work with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to address their mental health needs, acknowledging their distinct circumstances, rights, and cultures.

6. Mobilize leadership, improve knowledge, and foster collaboration at all levels. This includes involving various government departments; encouraging people living with mental health problems and illnesses, and their families, to take on leadership roles; as well as building strong infrastructure to support data collection, research, and human resource development.

Some of the recommendations include:

  • People living with mental health problems and illnesses and their families should be engaged in the planning, organization, delivery, and evaluation of mental health services, treatments, and supports;
  • Mental health service providers should work with planners, funders, and users of the system to find out what changes need to be made so that the system meets people’s needs and fosters recovery;
  • Governments should take a broad approach to address mental health needs, re-focus spending on improving outcomes, and correct years of underfunding;
  • Senior executives in the public and private sectors should create workplaces that are as mentally healthy as possible, and actively support the broader movement for improved mental health;
  • All Canadians should promote mental health in everyday settings and reduce stigma by recognizing how much we all have in common.

The Strategy also calls for the following changes:

  • Increase the proportion of health spending that is devoted to mental health from 7% to 9% over 10 years;
  • Increase the proportion of social spending that is devoted to mental health by 2% from current levels;
  • Identify current mental health spending that should be re-allocated to improve efficiency and achieve better mental health outcomes; and
  • Engage the private and philanthropic sectors to contribute resources to mental health.

How can this report be used

This report presents a broad range of issues related to mental health and offers many recommendations for system change. It should be of use to policy makers, providers of mental health and related services, and people who use these services.

Keywords: mental health

Contact person/source:

Mental Health Commission of Canada

Calgary Office
Tel: 403.255.5808, Fax: 403.385.4044

Ottawa Office
Tel: 613.683.3755; Fax: 613.798.2989