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 Hub Update: Special Edition, 2021 Annual Symposium Highlights
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The Mental Health Promotion Innovation Fund in Context: People, Positioning, Pandemic, Potential
KDE Hub Annual Symposium, January 25-27, 2021
This special edition of the Hub update is a reference for main messages and outputs from the Hub’s first annual symposium. We’ve tried to be as succinct as possible, while also conveying the substance and spirit of the event.

To learn more about the 2021 Annual Symposium, view session recordings and access related documents, visit our website.
Everything was a ‘first’ for the symposium. It was the Hub’s first offering of what is anticipated to be an annual event. Though originally envisioned as an in-person event, the symposium was fully virtual. This shift in format allowed us to accommodate more speakers and participants, and to experiment with ways of creating a welcoming, inclusive, engaging, and safe place for a new and evolving community.
 
Context was the unifying theme for this year’s event. Participants explored:
  1. people and places of the Mental Health Promotion Innovation Fund (MHP-IF),
  2. positioning of the program on international through local levels,
  3. influence of the pandemic, and
  4. the potential to advance child and youth mental health promotion in Canada.
The two-and-a-half-day event included synchronous and asynchronous sessions, three panels, 27 small group break outs, 30 contributors, and the use of a variety of interactive software.

It took a community to make an event like this happen. Many thanks, once again, to speakers, small group facilitators, resource people, and everyone who chose to participate in all or parts of the event. The Hub is pleased to be working with all of you!
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People and places
Who gathered? What were some of their shared interests?
The event hosted over 120 participants from seven time zones and 11 Canadian provinces and territories. Participants included representation from all 20 projects funded by the MHP-IF, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the KDE Hub extended family (Secretariat at Renison University College, Hub Resource Collaborative, and consultants), and invited guests who share interests with the MHP-IF, such as health equity, cultural safety, and social determinants of mental health.

Participants got more familiar with the people and places involved in the MHP-IF. Opening remarks introduced participants to the KDE Hub as the event host, the Public Health Agency of Canada as the initiator and funder of the MHP-IF, and Renison University College as the Hub’s home institution. In addition, a video montage wove together submissions from MHP-IF participants of their contexts – voices and visuals from home offices and project settings from coast to coast to coast.

Participants also got more familiar with each other in a networking activity called ‘who’s who in the zoo?’ Consistent with event invitations, most ‘species’ were from places we might expect, like academia, government and non-government organizations, and health, education, children’s services and justice sectors. They had many shared interests such as social support networks, healthy child development, social and physical environments, and health services. Common interests also spanned approaches including culturally safe, family-centred, participatory and strengths-based. Fun fact: When asked to pick what animal they would most like to be in the zoo, panda was most popular!
A screenshot from a video montage featuring some of the 'people and places' of the MHP-IF
A screenshot from a video montage featuring some of the 'people and places' of the MHP-IF
Available on the Hub website
 
  • Session description and list of speakers
  • Recording of opening remarks
  • Video montage screened during this session 
  • Land acknowledgment given as part of opening remarks
  • Key messages and quotes
Positioning
What is the niche of the MHP-IF? How is this niche positioned within the field of child and youth mental health promotion?
We explored the niche of the MHP-IF from international through local levels. Keynote speaker Professor Margaret Barry from the National University of Ireland Galway, Head of the World Health Organization Centre for Health Promotion Research, and a leading expert in mental health promotion globally, positioned the MHP-IF in an international context. She affirmed a strong evidence base for mental health promotion. She reminded us that this evidence base is only useful if implemented, and with attention to quality and adapting to contexts and cultures. 

A panel discussion with leading Canadian experts in healthy public policy, health equity, and Indigenous mental health and wellness affirmed the relevance and timeliness of the MHP-IF’s  emphasis on upstream approaches, promoting health equity, scaling up, cultural safety, and knowledge development and exchange. These hallmarks are on target. But how do we put them into practice, with high quality, and in ways that are sensitive to contexts and cultures in a country as diverse as Canada? A valuable niche for the MHP-IF is to help answer this question. And it’s a tall order.

One place to start is unpacking what we mean by ‘contexts’ so mental health promotion activities can be sensitive to them. Participants had some fun with this one. They chose an area of interest (e.g., Indigenous, early years, school-based, youth and young adults) and used the iceberg systems model to begin to map some relevant features of their contexts. Eight system maps were produced and will be shared in a second release of symposium outputs. 

 
One of eight system maps produced by symposium participants
Available on the Hub website
 
  • Description of the presentation
  • Presentation recording
  • Presentation slides
  • Key messages and quotes
  • List of additional resources
     
  • Session description and list of panelists
  • Recording of the panel discussion
  • Key messages and quotes
  • List of additional resources
Canadian context panelists: 
 
Margaret Barry, Head of the World Health Organization Centre for Health Promotion Research, Professor, National University of Ireland Galway
Olivier Bellefleur, Scientific Lead,
National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy
Claire Betker, Scientific Director,
National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health
Brenda Restoule, Chief Executive Officer of the First Peoples Wellness Circle
Pandemic
How is the pandemic influencing the MHP-IF and child and youth mental health promotion? How do we move ahead in the pandemic context?
A panel discussed preliminary findings from a Hub-led study on pandemic adaptations by the MHP-IF projects. All 20 projects are part of this study, sharing their stories to help build relevant and timely new knowledge, for their own and others’ use. Early themes really resonated with panelists, especially ‘creative reinvention and innovation using online formats’, ‘unexpected benefits’, ‘amplifying inequities and reinforcing mental health determinants’, and ‘mental health coming further out of the shadows’.
Pandemic context discussion panel (from left to right: Josh Fullan, Claire Betker, Vanessa Ambtman Smith, Kathy Short)
Panelists brought data and stories from their own research and lived experiences on the impacts of the pandemic. Along with expected and well-known challenges, we learned about unanticipated benefits from the pandemic, like enhanced empathy among youth, and tapping into Indigenous knowledge systems and relationships to the natural environment for how to survive and thrive during these times. We heard that in unprecedented times, pay even more attention to precedented approaches – where possible, build on what you have, including organizational structures and processes, tools and resources, and especially good relationships. We were reminded that the pandemic has amplified, not initiated, long-standing health and social inequities, further reinforcing the importance of addressing upstream determinants of mental health and in ways that promote health equity.

The session concluded with a strong and heartfelt message of hope – hope for a better tomorrow, as we continue to adapt and learn in these pandemic times, support each other, and trust our children and youth in shaping their future. 
Available on the Hub website
 
Panel discussion, The Pandemic Context:
  • Session description and list of panelists
  • Recording of the panel discussion 
  • Key messages and quotes
  • Handout of preliminary themes from the Hub-led study on MHP-IF project pandemic adaptations
  • List of additional resources
Pandemic context panelists: 
 
Vanessa Ambtman Smith, Niizho Binesiik. Nêhiyaw-Métis; Thunderbird Clan, PhD Candidate, Western University
Claire Betker, Scientific Director,
National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health
Josh Fullan, Founder and Director, Maximum City
Kathy Short, Executive Director, School Mental Health Ontario
Potential
What are some promising directions for the MHP-IF, 
and for child and youth mental health promotion in Canada?
The symposium took long- and short-term views on this question. A long-term view focused on scaling up promising approaches to child and youth mental health promotion. First up was a presentation by Mark Cabaj, of Here To There Consulting Inc. Mark’s propositions, including that most innovations should not be scaled, and the emphasis on not having enough money, talent or implementation science is important though may be overdone, captured attention and intrigue. His remarks guided our listening to four lived experiences of scaling up, including from the Public Health Agency’s Innovation Strategy, on which the MHP-IF is based.

We were reminded that even though scaling up is a long-term goal, creating conditions for scaling up starts at the outset. There is no recipe for scaling up, but we know a bit about essential ingredients and when and how to mix them. One essential ingredient is evidence, but do we know what evidence is good enough for scale up? Do we know what evidence is needed, by whom, and when?

Scaling up impact is another important focus. To do so, the panel of Canadian experts introduced the idea of a tipping point. They invited us to consider if we’re at one in Canada for mental health promotion. And how we – at the symposium and others – might tip Canada in the direction of extending the impact of child and youth mental health promotion? Who are allies for this agenda? Where will we stand as governments shift from pandemic spending to balancing budgets? 
Panelists discussed their experiences with sustaining and scaling up
One short-term direction was clear: the need to re-frame mental health promotion and get to a shared understanding of what it is, its value, and how to make it happen. The shared understanding must emphasize addressing structural determinants of mental health.
Available on the Hub website
 
  • Description of the presentation
  • Presentation recording
  • Presentation slides
  • Key messages and quotes
  • List of additional resources
     
  • Session description and panelists
  • Recording of the panel discussion
  • Panelist slides
  • Link to YouTube video from the BC First Nations Health Authority presentation
  • Key messages
  • List of additional resources
Scaling up panelists: 
 
Mark Cabaj, President, From Here to There
Mariette Chartier, Senior Research Scientist, Assistant Professor, Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, University of Manitoba
Claire Crooks, Director, Centre for School Mental Health, Professor,
Western University
Kathryn Scharf, Chief Program Officer, Community Food Centres Canada
Karla Tait, Mental Wellness Manager, BC First Nations Health Authority
Taylor Behn-Tsakoza, Life Promotion for All My Relations Youth Advisory Committee Member, BC First Nations Health Authority
Next steps
What’s next for the MHP-IF and the Hub?
The symposium reinforced and celebrated the importance and value of the MHP-IF and the KDE Hub. Closing reflections from the Public Health Agency of Canada, projects, and the KDE Hub, conveyed a strong and shared commitment to their interdependent roles within the program, and an appreciation for the broader community of interest and influence. ‘We’re in this together’ rings as true for mental health promotion as it does for the pandemic.

Throughout the symposium, enthusiasm was built for the people and places of the MHP-IF, and the positioning and potential of the program, especially during pandemic times. This sense of enthusiasm and shared understanding set the stage for participants to share their ideas for how to work together in the upcoming year. MHP-IF projects and invited guests tackled this question separately, armed with more interactive software. 

The Hub was encouraged to keep delivering on its three niche roles: creating new knowledge across MHP-IF projects, building community and capacity, and strengthening system supports for child and youth mental health promotion. Valuable input was also provided on specific activities that will build on the experience of this first annual symposium to inform next year’s event, and other supports and activities throughout the year.
Available on the Hub website
 
  • Session description 
  • Recording of Hub presentation on online survey results and Hub activities
  • Hub presentation slides
  • Summary of breakout room discussions 
  • Key messages
     
  • Session description and list of speakers
  • Recording of closing remarks
  • Key messages and quotes
We look forward to continuing to work together and learn together, building on conversations started at the symposium. Stay tuned for opportunities to do so including through our webinar series.

To learn more about the 2021 Annual Symposium, view session recordings and access related documents, visit our website.
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