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What is positive mental health?

Positive mental health is a state of emotional, functional, spiritual and social well-being that enables people of all ages to enjoy life to the fullest and to have the resilience to cope with the challenges of everyday life.

Independent from mental health disorders, positive mental health is rather nurtured by factors such as self-confidence, harmonious social relationships and environments that support healthy habits.

Cultivating positive mental health is about developing the personal and social skills that allow us to thrive, rain or shine!

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Promoting positive mental health

In contrast to prevention, which focuses on reducing factors that can harm mental health—such as conflict or poor stress management— the promotion of positive mental health focuses on strengthening the elements that support well-being such as self-knowledge and healthy management emotions and stress.

As childhood, adolescence and early adulthood are important stages during which young people blossom, school and family settings become key environments for promoting the bases of positive mental health. It is never too early to surround ourselves with tools that help us flourish.

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Factors that contribute to positive mental health

Positive mental health goes beyond personal emotions. It involves all the elements that make up individual, family, community and societal well-being.

Individually, positive mental health is affected by a person's resilience, ability to adapt, spirituality, health and physical activity. More broadly, family relationships, social support, the school environment and the quality of interactions with school professionnals can also have a significant impact.

Understanding personal and social competencies

Fostering positive mental health requires we have access to tools that allow us to thrive in our environment.

Personal and social skills are protective factors for coping resiliently with the demands of everyday life—whatever they may be! Understanding and developing these skills in childhood will enable young people to adopt the appropriate positive behaviours to navigate all areas of adulthood.

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Know yourself

Self-knowledge is the recognition of all of your physical, emotional, academic and social characteristics and traits—like tastes, interests, qualities, talents, limitations, strengths and physical characteristics. It's important to know yourself before in order to develop the social and personal skills necessary to flourish!

What's more

Self-knowledge allows you to make the best decisions for your well-being :

  • In difficult situations or in the face of adversity, such as conflict, death, divorce, fire, accident, failure or injustice ;
  • During major events, such as a move, the transition from primary to high school, the choice of career path or changes in family composition.
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Learn to manage emotions and stress

Managing emotions and stress doesn't just happen with the snap of a finger! It first involves recognizing the physical signs of emotions and stress, using the appropriate vocabulary to express them, knowing their sources and their potential consequences on health, and then developing a repertoire of adaptation strategies to regulate them.

What's more

Healthy management of emotions and stress is necessary to weather out :

  • Stressful or difficult situations, such as exams, break-ups, conflicts, moving or divorce ;
  • Intolerable situations, such as violence, abuse or bullying ;
  • Adversity, such as bereavement, illness or accidents.

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Make informed lifestyle choices

The actions we take on a regular basis have a significant impact on our well-being. Making informed lifestyle choices involves understanding the impact that one habit over another can have on our overall health. It's important to know how to make the best decisions for our long-term well-being, even in difficult or stressful situations.

What's more

It's important to be able to make informed choices about lifestyle habits such as :

  • sleep ;
  • diet ; 
  • regular physical activity ;
  • hygiene ; 
  • substance use ; 
  • sexuality ;
  • gambling ; 
  • leisure activities. 
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Manage social influences

Throughout their development, young people are subject to many social influences—both positive and negative—such as peer pressure, advertising messages, family culture, social norms and stereotypes. Making decisions for one's own well-being involves acting as a positive role model and withstanding negative influences.

What's more

To manage social influences, young people must, among other things :

  • Recognize the different sources of influence and their pontential effects on success as well as emotional and physical health ;
  • Discern positive from negative influences ;
  • Understand the importance of positive role models in the lives of their peers ;
  • Develop critical thinking skills in relation to media messages ;
  • Apply strategies to resist negative influences when necessary.
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Interact well with others

Adopting prosocial behaviours means demonstrating consideration for the needs of others and a desire to interact positively with those arround us. It encompasses skills essential to social well-being such as empathy, openness, open communication and cooperation.

What's more

Prosocial behaviour is also about :

  • Recognizing the importance of positive interpersonal relationships and striving to maintain them ;
  • Using strategies for healthy conflict resolution.
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Ask for help

Whether it is for ourselves or for others, asking for help is an important action to take when dealing with a situation that goes beyond our own capabilities. It's a way of taking charge and showing we understand our limitations.

What's more

Asking for help requires several steps including :

  • Identifying situations where help is needed ;
  • Recognizing our own abilities and limitations ;
  • Finding information relevant to the situation ;
  • Consulting the right resources.

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Being socially engaged

Social engagement involves actively participating in creating an environment that is conducive to one's own well-being and that of others. Making decisions for oneself is empowering and emancipating.

What's more

Being socially committed also means :

  • Respecting the rules of our environment ;
  • Promoting favorable environments.

Building Environments for Mental Health

Positive mental health starts with living in environments that provide all the right conditions for our well-being.

At home, at school, at work or in the neighbourhood, actions can be taken to build healthy, inclusive and safe environments for youth.

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School is an important environment for youth. In order to support their learning and promote their health, several elements must be taken into account. Physical and virtual spaces, school policies, resource organization, training of school personnel and student empowerment are all potential levers to build a school environment that promotes health and well-being.

What's more

To promote a safe and healthy school climate, you can:

  • Ensure that students are aware of and have access to the various support services available in the school;
  • Create a climate of inclusion, mutual aid and non-judgment for both students and staff;
  • Provide adequate supervision of students (in the school, on the playground, etc.), the terms of which are defined in a clear and precise plan that allows them to feel safe.
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The family setting is critical to youth development. It is also influenced by a number of elements ranging from the social support of parents, to the ability to feed the family properly, to household income. Supporting parents and guardians contributes directly to the well-being of youth.

What's more

To support a safe and healthy family environment, you can: 

  • Support the development of positive parenting practices through training sessions
  • Support the involvement of families in school activities by organizing activities for them that take into account their realities
  • Develop collaborations and activities between the school, families and the community to increase the sense of belonging and continuity of services