Mental health is an essential component of overall health and wellbeing. Mental illness affects 1 in 5 people over the course of a lifetime, and many more people support those with mental illness to keep them well, to access mental health services and supports, and to enable recovery. The substantial prevalence and burden of poor mental health make mental health promotion and the prevention of mental illness a public health priority.
A number of public campaigns have addressed the need to de-stigmatise mental illness. We now have enough awareness of the importance of mental health, which leaves us wondering – what can our community do about it? The first step is to better understand the local picture of mental health. This means looking at mental wellbeing, mental health literacy, stigma, the prevalence and burden of mental illness and the experiences of people in the mental health system at the local level. It means understanding how our different sectors, from schools and workplaces to the justice system, are acting locally in support of mental wellbeing.
This unique report on Lambton County’s mental health combines data from national surveys, local surveys, health care services, and community partners. We asked the general population how much they know about mental health and mental illness. We asked them how prepared they are to recognize symptoms of poor mental health and to seek support. We also asked them how prepared they feel our institutions are to address mental health needs. We asked people with lived experience how they were treated in mental health services, and what could be done better to help them in the community.
Taken together, the information in this report paints a picture of a mostly resilient, mentally healthy community. However, as with other communities we have pockets of vulnerability – people who experience stigma, who can’t or don’t receive adequate support for their mental illness, and people who are uncomfortable asking for help. We need to pay particular attention to our children and youth in order to protect their mental wellbeing. In addition to turning our attention to vulnerable people and their families, we must also build organizational and institutional capacity in the community to address mental wellbeing – especially in the critical settings of schools, workplaces and health care.
I hope this report will be a catalyst for community action on mental health promotion in Lambton County, and we at Lambton Public Health look forward to working with you to create and sustain changes for better mental health.
Sudit Ranade MD MPH MBA CCFP FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health