Why are our 7 agencies committed to working together as the BC Partners? We came together for this project because we recognize that people need to have access to quality information on mental health, mental illness and substance use problems and disorders.
On this page:
On this site, we try to give you information you can trust. We do this by paying attention to 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 substance use problems live productive, fulfilling lives.
We know that ours won't be the only website you visit when you look for information. But before you leave us, we hope that you will have received the message that good information can empower you to make better decisions about areas that affect your health and well-being, or the health and well-being of someone you care about. Mental health and substance use problems can be managed on a day-to-day basis, and by working more effectively with health care professionals. You can play a active role in charting a path to treatment and recovery for yourself or a loved one.
Below, we briefly describe our vision using two concepts from the research community: mental health literacy and self-management.
The lifetime risk of developing a mental illness—including a substance use disorder—is around 25%. That is high enough that almost the whole population will at some time experience 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 skills that help us recognize, manage and prevent mental health and substance use problems. Specifically, mental health literacy includes:
The ability to recognize signs of problems
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 help us notice changes in our well-being and seek help
A high public level of mental health literacy would mean we could recognize problems earlier and get the right help faster. Mental health literacy is also important for reducing stigma, which can prevent help-seeking and can increase discrimination against people living with mental health or substance use problems.
Self-management is a more advanced stage of health literacy, and it refers to the ability of someone 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 good services won't be available. It's a skill that enables individuals, and their families, to make better use of existing health services. In order to "self-manage," an individual with a mental health or substance use problem, whether a diagnosable illness or not, 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 illnesses 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 illnesses.
Mental health and substance use self-management involves more than simply providing information; building a sense of confidence is also important.