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Mental Health

At the HKPR District Health Unit, we do not provide treatment for mental health concerns or diagnosed mental illnesses. Our focus is on promoting positive mental health for everyone in Northumberland County, the City of Kawartha Lakes, and the County of Haliburton.

We are all unique people. What affects one person may not affect another person in the same way. What is a difficult situation for one person may be a crisis for another, depending on their support system and how they interpret and cope with the problem.

If you require mental health support, please check our supports page for more information and resources.

What is Mental Health?

It is how we think, feel, and act in a way that boosts our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face.  

Many things influence our mental health, such as    

  • Relations with other people (past and present) 
  • The environment (where we live, work, go to school, etc.) 
  • Our culture 
  • Biology (for example, genetic factors) 
  • Income
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Our minds, how we think and our emotions
  • Employment and working conditions
  • Exposure to discrimination and violence 
  • And much more
  • Read more about the Social Determinants of Mental Health

Both our physical and mental health are equally important parts of our overall health and well-being.   

We all have highs and lows in our mental health. There are times when our mental health is positive, and we are coping well with life’s ups and downs. There are other times when we are struggling to cope and we do not feel mentally well.    

Feelings like anger, sadness, or worry when we face challenges or when things change in our lives is normal. For example, when we start or lose a relationship; or start high school or college; or start a new job; or we change our job or home; or we get married or become a new parent. This can all feel stressful, and it can affect our mental health.   

If you experience a “low” in your mental health, it does not mean you have a mental illness. 

Our mental health can change over time. Good mental health helps you get the most out of life and helps you cope with life's stresses and reach your goals. 

Want to learn more about mental health? Take this free course, Mental Health 101 

There are many factors in our lives that can help protect our mental health. These are known as “protective” factors. These factors can occur at any of these levels: personal, family, community, and society. Mental health is complex. No single factor is responsible for our mental health. Protective factors, and risk factors, interact in various ways.

Below are some examples of protective factors. 

At a Personal Level...  

  • Becoming resilient People find ways to deal with the stress of life’s challenges. 
  • Being well emotionally – Having interest in and enjoying life, feeling satisfied with life, and having overall feelings of happiness. 
  • Being well with your mind and self Having warm and trusting relationships with others, a sense of purpose or meaning in life, high self-esteem and/or confidence, and a positive sense of self. 
  • Being well socially – Having strong connections with others, strong and positive relationships, having feelings of belonging, and good social skills.  
  • Having health in your body – Being physically active, having healthy eating habits, having enough quality sleep, not using substances (e.g., alcohol, tobacco, etc.) or engaging in behaviours that can harm or injure your body.  
  • Having financial health – Having a stable job, having enough income to live, and being able to manage debt. It is worth noting that good jobs and income require appropriate social policies at the society level (see below).  

At a Family Level...

  • Having a supportive and loving family home.
  • Having positive and healthy parent/caregiver-to-child relationships, such as strong emotional bonds and a lack of parent/caregiver-child conflict. 
  • Living free from intimate partner or family violence. 

In the Community...

  • Being able to access schools that create and support good physical and mental health and provides a good setting for learning for all children (e.g., safe from bullying and discrimination; fosters skills to cope with stress and anxiety).
  • Being able to access workplaces that create and support good physical and mental health (e.g., policies against bullying and discrimination; good work and life balance, promotes health, provides a fair wage and good benefits). 
  • Being able to access childcare that parents/caregivers can afford, that is timely (so a parent/caregiver can work shifts and/or go to school) and has enough spaces. 
  • Having access to community and health services and programs, including those for mental health in rural areas. 
  • Having access to green spaces and safe sidewalks/paths/bike lanes for being active.
  • Having access to transit and other transportation in rural areas. 
  • Having access to, and being able to afford, an array of sport, recreation, arts, and other cultural activities.
  • Being involved in the community (e.g., to volunteer or be a part of a group, club, agency, etc.).   
  • Having strong social networks and a sense of belonging and connection within your community. 

In Society...

Key policies and actions are needed at all levels of government. For example, policies that provide sufficient income and address poverty. Other areas requiring social policies include those that provide/support for:

  • Safe and healthy working conditions. 
  • Affordable, quality, and enough housing. 
  • Affordable, timely and enough childcare spaces.  
  • Support local food producers and growers and provide affordable and nutritious food.
  • Address transit and transportation, including in rural areas. 
  • Address violence, stigma, and discrimination. 
  • Community and health services and programs, including those for mental health in rural areas. 

Read more about Protective and risk factors for mental health -

Most mental health problems do not have just one single cause. Our mental health can change over time and there are a number of factors that can put us at risk for poor mental health. Some risk factors for poor mental health include:  

  • Social factors (for example, not having access to money or food, or inadequate housing, education or healthcare) 
  • Experiencing trauma or a history of abuse  
  • Experiencing violence or discrimination 
  • Experiencing loss, illness, or ongoing medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes 
  • Biological or chemical imbalances in the brain 
  • Use of alcohol and other substances  
  • Feeling lonely or isolated  

People who experience social disadvantage are more likely to experience mental health problems.  Read more about the Social determinants of mental health. 

Read more about Risk factors and causes of mental health problems.

No matter the mental health concern, there are good mental health support for you online or in-person, such as:

You can also think about building a self-care plan if you are facing stress related to a traumatic life event.  

Looking after your health and staying healthy is important. Getting enough, good quality sleep; being active and reducing the amount you sit; and eating healthy, all matter and will...  

  • Enhance your quality of life, mood, and ability to think  
  • Improve your bone health and physical function 
  • Lower your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, several cancers, anxiety, depression, dementia, falls, and injuries from falls 


Are you getting enough sleep?   

  • When we sleep, we are letting our minds and bodies rest and restore. This is important for overall health, including mental health.   
  • The 24-Hour Movement Guidelines provides guidance on how much sleep is you need.  
  • Adults and Seniors 65+  
  • 7 to 9 hours of good-quality sleep on a regular basis 
  • Children and youth (aged 5–17 years) 
  • Consistent sleep 9 to 11 hours per night for 5- to 13-year-olds 
  • Consistent sleep 8 to 10 hours per night for 14- to 17- year-olds 
  • 0 to 4 years of age need a lot more sleep, see the guidelines.

Tips for a good sleep 

  • Avoid or reduce caffeine after 2PM 
  • Relax and aim to have a dark bedroom setting 
  • Avoid screens 30-60 min before bed  
  • Have the same sleep and wake times daily 

Physical Activity

Are you active and reducing the amount of time you are sitting and being inactive? Being active the whole day counts.

  • Physical health and mental health are closely linked.  
  • Being physically active can help you to feel good, reduce stress, maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk for illness.   
  • Pick an activity that you enjoy and think about asking a friend or neighbour to join you!   
  • The 24-Hour Movement Guidelines provides guidance for every age. Some key things for  

Adults and Seniors 65+  

  • Move more by taking part in moderate to brisk activity that breaks a sweat, gets your heart pumping, and adds up to at least 150 minutes per week (or at least 2 ½ hours per week).  
  • Moderate activity breaks a sweat, and you are breathing a bit harder (e.g., a brisk walk, jogging, skating, downhill skiing, vacuuming) 
  • Brisk activity breaks a sweat, you breathe harder, and it may be hard for you to talk (e.g., running, soccer, biking, squash, wheelchair sports) 
  • Try activities that will strengthen your muscles at least twice a week. 
  • Try climbing stairs, digging in the garden, lifting weights, push-ups, curl-ups, squats 
  • For 65+ (but every person can benefit) include activities that test balance  
  • Yoga, tai-chi, standing on one leg, getting up and down from a chair without using arms 
  • Reduce the amount of time you are sitting and are inactive to less than 8 hours a day.  
  • Aim to have no more than 3 hours of screen time. 
  • Avoid sitting for too long and get up and move more often. 
  • Have several hours of light physical activities (e.g., strolling, cooking), including standing (getting up from your chair more often; or standing to watch something rather than sitting) 

Children and youth (aged 5–17 years) 

  • Move more by taking part in moderate to brisk activity that breaks a sweat and gets your heart pumping and adds up to at least 60 minutes per day (or at least 1 hour per day).  
  • Try activities that will strengthen muscles and bones at least 3 days per week. 
  • Also include several hours of all kinds of planned and unplanned light physical activities  

Infant and Toddlers (0 to 4 years)


Are you mindful about where, when, why, how and what you eat?  Mental health is complex, and diet can help with depression, mood disorders, and anxiety as shown in the article about Mental Health and Nutrition. 

The first area of guidance from Canada’s Food Guide is more than the types of foods you eat which can lead to better mental health and mood. Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat. It is also about where, when why and how you eat. 

  • Be mindful of your eating habits 
  • Take time to eat 
  • Notice when you are hungry and when you are full 
  • Cook more often 
  • Plan what you eat 
  • Involve others in planning and preparing meals 
  • Enjoy your food 
  • Culture and food traditions can be a part of healthy eating 
  • Eat meals with others 
  • Enjoying healthy foods with family, friends, neighbours or co-workers is a great way to connect and add enjoyment to your life. 

Also read, Let’s Improve our Mood with Food, packed full of information about our food choices, and the impact they have on how we feel. 

Below is the second key area from Canada’s Food Guide to guide you in WHAT to eat for physical health to help reduce diet related illness (e.g., some cancer, diabetes, heart disease, etc.). Any diet related illness can also impact your mental health. 

Social Connection   

  • Spending time with others, in person or in another way, will lead to connecting more with others. 
  • We are social beings and connecting and staying connected to people is good for our mental health.   
  • Social connection can reduce stress and give one a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging. Even short, positive contacts can be helpful.   

Read more about how social connection is the cure to loneliness. 

How can you start connecting with other people? 

  • Volunteer or do something thoughtful or kind for another person. Helping others can have a positive impact on you too.   
  • Spend more quality time with family and friends. 
  • Join a group, club, or class related to an interest or hobby (books, art, sports). 
  • Spend time with others in nature. 
  • Go for a walk with another person (a neighbour, co-worker, friend, family member). 
  • Express gratitude to others (e.g., write a note or card and send it or give someone a call) 
  • Volunteer with an organization or local group. 
  • Get involved in your community (e.g., the food bank, school or library reading program, etc.)  
  • Provide social support to others (e.g., listening to a friend dealing with a problem). 
  • Get to know your neighbors.  
  • Invite a neighbour or friend for a tea/coffee or cold drink. 
  • If you cannot be with others in person, connect by phone or texting or FaceTime/ video call. 

Social Support  

If you are not feeling like yourself, it can be helpful to talk to another person about that. Check out this video on how to talk about your mental health.  Remember that having social support is a protective factor for positive mental health! 

Check out our Mental Health Support page for more information and resources.

Have a Conversation about Mental Health  

Sometimes it can be difficult to know what to say, or how to say it, when you are worried about someone. This Conversation Guide may be helpful. 

Know someone who is feeling suicidal?

Suicide is the act of ending one’s own life on purpose.  It is a complex issue.  It may be very difficult to listen to, and understand why, someone says they feel like ending their life.   

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, people who die by suicide or attempt suicide may not really want to end their life. Suicide may seem like the only way to deal with difficult feelings or situations. Suicide is often related to complex mix of things that cause stress and health issues leading people to feel hopeless and in despair.  

How can You Help?  

  • Provide support and be a good listener to one who says they want to end their life.  
  • Get this person help so that they can be safe.   
  • You may need to take them to the nearest hospital or call 9-1-1 for help.  
  • Also, look after your own mental health when helping or reaching out to a person who feels suicidal.   

You can read more about suicide prevention including signs and symptoms, causes and risk factors from the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, including how you can help someone who is at risk for suicide. 

Check out our Mental Health Support page for more information and resources.

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) helps a person on their way to having a mental health issue, or a person whose mental health issue is getting worse, or a person in a mental health crisis.  

Just like physical first aid, help is provided until medical treatment can be obtained. MHFA is given until appropriate support is found or until the crisis is resolved. Consider taking a MHFA course.  

The Be There Certificate is a free, self-paced course to provide you with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to safely support anyone who may be struggling with their mental health. There are 6 interactive lessons and take less than 2 hours to complete.  

What is Mental Illness?

Mental illnesses are diagnosed by a medical professional. A person is diagnosed with a condition that very much alters their thinking, mood and/or behaviour and makes living their life very difficult. Mental Illness is sometimes called having a mental disorder or a mental condition.  

  • It is a complex mix of social, economic, psychological, biological, and genetic factors, and  
  • It may take many forms, such as  
  • mood disorders,  
  • schizophrenia,  
  • anxiety disorders,  
  • personality disorders,  
  • eating disorders, and  
  • addictions such as substance dependence and gambling.  

Source: Ontario Public Health Standards, Mental Health Promotion Guidelines, 2018  

Sometimes we don’t know why some people develop a mental illness and others don’t.   

Get fast facts about mental health and mental illness.   

The Mental Illness & Addiction Index provides clear and reliable information about many mental illness and addiction such as  

  • signs and symptoms, and  
  • where to find help, treatment, and support.

Mental health and mental illness occur on a continuum.  

A person can have the high mental health, poor mental health, or be somewhere in between.  

Can you have good mental health and have a mental illness? 

Yes. People can manage their illness well and have good quality of life,  relationships and be a part of and add to their community.  

Can you have poor mental health or trouble coping and not have a mental illness?   

Yes. A person might be under a great deal of stress, which has a negative effect on their mood, how they think, and their relationships with others.  

We are all unique people, and we all have unique profiles when it comes to how certain factors (positive or negative) affect us.


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Understanding Mental Health and Breaking the Stigma

Learn the importance of mental health and how addressing stigma can create a more inclusive and compassionate society. Learn how to promote mental well-being and support those affected by mental health challenges.

Stigma means that someone has a negative attitude (or bias) or beliefs about someone with mental health problem.  It could mean thinking that a person with a mental health problem is to blame for their problems or they could “get over it” if they wanted to.   

Negative conduct or treating someone in a negative way (discrimination) because they have a mental health issue is also part of stigma. Learn more about Understanding the impact of prejudice and discrimination | CAMH 

Stigma about having a mental health condition or illness is a reason many people don’t reach out for help. Everyone deserves help.  

Reducing stigma starts with each of us. Put people first and avoid labels. For example, saying “a person with depression” or “a person with schizophrenia” or “a person with a mental illness” (versus saying a depressed person or a mentally ill person). Here are some helpful resources to educate yourself:


HKPR District Health Unit does not provide mental health counseling or treatment. This webpage is only for information.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 9-1-1.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call or text 9-8-8. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline.

Help is also available through Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 and the Hope for Wellness Help Line 1-855-242-3310.

Finding the right service to fit your needs can sometimes take time. Everyone deserves support.

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