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We don’t provide mental health advice, counselling, or treatment. If you or someone you know is in crisis, contact your local community crisis team. You can also reach out to the Indigenous Hope for Wellness Help Line 1-855-242-3310, the Black Youth Helpline 1-833-294-8650, or Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868.

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Understanding mental health

Learning about mental health helps you better take care of your mental health. By learning more, you can notice concerns earlier and know where and how to get help . As more people learn about mental health, this will reduce stigma and increase help-seeking1.

What is mental health?2

Everyone has mental health. Although everyone’s understanding of it might change according to their cultural background, it might be helpful to think about mental health as a range or spectrum. On one end is good mental health. On the other is poor mental health. We all move along this continuum, and all of us struggle with poor mental health at times, depending on what’s happening in our lives and other factors.   

Not everyone has a mental illness. Mental illnesses, like mental health, can fluctuate. On one end of the mental illness continuum is no diagnosable mental illness (minimal or no symptoms). On the other end is severe mental illness. Because of this, mental health and mental illness are actually two separate, but intersecting ideas. It’s a dual continuum that we all move along.   

The dual continuum of mental health3

A continuum with a vertical axis and a horizontal axis that cross in the middle. The vertical axis shows good mental health and poor mental health. The horizontal access shows severe mental illness and no mental illness.

It’s also helpful to know that people who have diagnosed mental illnesses can still feel mentally well and have good mental health. And similarly, people who don’t have a diagnosed mental illness can have poor mental health and need help. It can help to think about physical health. If someone with diabetes (a physical illness) has what they need to manage their illness, they may feel well and experience good physical health, despite having an illness. The same is true for someone with depression. If they have what they need to manage their illness, they may also feel mentally well and experience a good quality of life. That’s why getting treatment and support is essential.  

Resources to help you learn about mental health


  1. Kutcher S, Wei Y, Coniglio C. Mental Health Literacy: Past, Present, and Future. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2016;61(3):154-158. doi:10.1177/0706743715616609
  2. Government of Canada (2022). About Mental Health.
  3. Keyes, C. L. M., Dhingra, S. S., & Simoes, E. J. (2010). Change in Level of Positive Mental Health as a Predictor of Future Risk of Mental Illness. American Journal of Public Health, 100(12), 2366–2371.