BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions Information – here to help
The BC Partners for Mental Health and Addictions are a group of seven leading mental health and addictions non-profit agencies who have been working together since 2003 to help people live well and better prevent and manage mental health and substance use problems.
We came together to create the here to help information project because we recognize people need to have access to quality information on mental health, mental disorders, and substance use problems and disorders.
We want to particularly emphasize “evidence-based” services and supports, or those strategies that have been shown to be effective through high-quality research studies. The good news is that there is a lot of useful evidence available about what works and helps people and families living with mental health and addictions issues live productive, fulfilling lives.
Good information can help people make better decisions about areas that affect our health and well-being, or the health and well-being of others we care about. Mental disorders and addictions can be managed on a day-to-day basis.
What is Mental Health Literacy and Why is it Important?
The lifetime risk of developing a mental disorder – including a substance use disorder – is nearly 25%. That is sufficiently high that almost the whole population will at some time have close encounter with it, either in themselves or in someone close. For this reason, it is crucial that the public develops mental health literacy, and that the mental health system supports its development.
Health literacy means the ability to gain access to, understand, and use information in ways that promote and maintain good health. Mental health literacy refers to the knowledge, beliefs, and abilities that support the recognition, management or prevention of mental health and substance use problems. Specifically, mental health literacy includes:
The ability to recognize specific disorders, including addictions
Knowing how to seek information on mental health and substance use problems
Knowledge of risk factors and causes, of self-care techniques, and of professional help available
Attitudes that promote recognition and appropriate help-seeking
A high public level of mental health literacy would make early recognition of and appropriate intervention in these disorders more likely. Mental health literacy is also important for reducing stigma – an issue that can prevent help-seeking and promote discrimination against people identified as having a mental disorder or substance use disorder.
What is Self-Management and Why is it Important?
Self-management is a more advanced stage of health literacy, and it refers to the ability of the individual to have the necessary knowledge, attitudes and skills to manage their health problem or disorder on a day-to-day basis. Self-management does not mean that people deal with their illnesses on their own, nor does it mean adequate services won’t be available. It is a skill that enables individuals, and their families, to make improved use of existing health services. In order to “self-manage,” an individual with a mental health or substance use problem or with a diagnosed mental disorder or substance use disorder would need to:
Understand the importance of having an active role in his or her own treatment
Understand and monitor the impact of lifestyle on his or her health condition and vice versa
Be able to identify early warning signs of a relapse
Adopt healthy coping or stress management techniques to maintain or restore health
In the event of a crisis, seek out appropriate help from services in the community
Research shows that people with various mental disorders and their families highly value, but generally lack access to, timely and useful information about how to successfully manage their illness. Evidence also exists that providing illness-related information and problem-solving skills leads to lower use of the health system, greater quality of life, and in general, speeds up the recovery process for people with mental disorders.
Mental illness and addictions self-management involves more than simply providing information. The relevant research stresses the importance of helping the individual’s or families’ sense of confidence in managing his or her illness.