Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ontario Healthy Kids Panel Touches on Mental Health and Resilience

sharma-obesity-depression-teenager2Moving beyond its expected focus on food and physical activity, I certainly find it refreshing that the Ontario Healthy Kids Panel’s report No Time to Wait: The Healthy Kids Strategy released yesterday, also touches on the issue of childhood mental health.

Thus, the authors do make the point that,

“Children and youth who enjoy good mental health respond better to life’s challenges and make healthier choices. We can foster children’s resilience by focusing on positive relationships, experiences and inner strengths such as values, skills and commitments. We can create a strong sense of belonging at home, in school and in communities; build on children’s strengths and competency; and encourage their autonomy and ability to make decisions that will enhance their health and well-being.”

They also include the following in their recommendations,

“Because of the strong links between mental health problems and unhealthy weights, the Healthy Kids Strategy should work closely with the province’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, focusing particularly on helping children develop the confidence, self-esteem, resilience and coping skills that will improve their mental health and empower them to make healthy choices throughout their lives. Youth should be actively involved in planning and implementing these strategies.”

Regular readers will certainly appreciate that I have always championed the notion that obesity and mental health are two sides of the same co-epidemic and that strategies to address the root cause of either of these problems will hopefully help address the other.

Readers may well recall that last year, the Canadian Obesity Network together with a number of partners released the Toronto Charter on Obesity and Mental Health – hopefully elements form this charter will find their way to decision makers as they decide which of the panel recommendations to focus on.

I, for one, have no doubt that attention to mental health and resilience (in both the parents and their kids) will be a key determinant of the success of this strategy.

AMS
Edmonton, AB

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3 Responses to “Ontario Healthy Kids Panel Touches on Mental Health and Resilience”

  1. RNegade (hopefulandfree) says:

    “Children and youth who enjoy good mental health respond better to life’s challenges and make healthier choices…We can create a strong sense of belonging at home, in school and in communities; build on children’s strengths and competency; and encourage their autonomy and ability to make decisions that will enhance their health and well-being.”

    This is a bit like stating that children who respond better to life’s challenges and make healthier choices respond better to life’s challenges and make healthier choices. It assumes that “mental health problems” exist INSIDE individual minds, as if conditions of mental suffering are discrete, individual problems that people possess or HAVE (or own, like material possessions which can be acquired or gotten rid of) apart from the crushing (and socially constructed) conditions of daily living that accompany social stigmas, such as stigmatization directed towards fatness or mental suffering.

    It implies, once again, that “we” (who?…parents? teachers? adults in general?) can somehow nip in the bud complex results of social oppression and profound social injustice. It implies that this mysterious “we” can prevent or lessen the impacts of social stigma (somehow) without actually doing away with the social stigma.

    This. This is the kind of social mythology which helps to perpetuate the suffering resulting from social stigmas and social injustice—the kind of (pardon me) b.s. which helps to disappear (not to prevent, mind you, but to deny and obscure) the damage and destruction resulting from conditions of social domination, the kind of vague assurances (where is the scientific evidence for these beliefs, btw) which distort (and construct) perceptions about the kinds of social conditions REQUIRED for “good mental health”, and, moreover, which “foster” the pretense that the devastation resulting from social conditions of oppression and domination (such as stigma) can somehow be mediated and managed and made more tolerable by mysterious individual/group efforts (how, exactly, do “we” accomplish what is advocated here?) put forth by mysterious yet evidently powerful individuals (aka “we”.)

    If “we” can actually accomplish all these wonderful and life-transforming feats described and recommended—these as-yet-to-be-fully-articulated or researched “empower[ing]” efforts and actions carried out by this collective (imagined) “we” working at the level of individuals—then perhaps there’s little reason, after all, to bother with all that hard and complex work involved with determining, precisely, exactly which ACTUAL social conditions (basic minimums) are REQUIRED to “foster” human wellness and health.

  2. Video in print says:

    have no doubt that attention to mental health and resilience (in both the parents and their kids) will be a key determinant of the success of this strategy.

  3. mem says:

    “The psychological effects often exacerbate health problems that the physiological stress response has already caused. High ACE scorers who do not overeat, smoke or take drugs still have high rates of obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes. The mechanism for these risks appears to lie in the biology of the stress-response system and in the way environment affects a person’s genetic activity.

    For most of human evolution, a stressful world would have been marked by famines or periods of starvation, and that environment might have resulted in a particular pattern of gene expression that would have prompted the body to store more fat in preparation for the next bout of scarcity. Today, of course, the same response to stress would result in obesity. This theory of a thrifty fat-storing system that kicks in under high levels of early stress was originally proposed by British physician David Barker.

    If, for instance, a modern child’s early life experience — in the womb and during the first five years, particularly — is constantly stressful, it would be incredibly energy-consuming, says Dr. Bruce Perry, senior fellow at the ChildTrauma Academy. “If your genes get the message that you are entering a stressful world, it makes complete adaptive sense to take the existing metabolism and tune it up to deposit fat and store energy to prepare for what the body is expecting will be a challenging and stressful life,” he says.

    “Early adverse experience can disrupt the body’s metabolic systems,” says Shonkoff. “One of the cornerstones of biology is that our body’s systems when they are young are reading the environment and establishing patterns to be maximally adaptive.

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1951240,00.html#ixzz2N42wEzzM

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