Understanding barriers

Social Determinants of Health

Mental Health is influenced by a variety of factors including environments, social and economic conditions and life experiences. These factors are called the social determinants of health. In Canada, the social determinants of health include:

  • Income and Income Distribution
  • Education
  • Unemployment and Job Security
  • Employment and Working Conditions
  • Early Child Development
  • Food Insecurity
  • Housing
  • Social Inclusion
  • Social Safety Net
  • Health Services
  • Geography
  • Disability
  • Indigenous Ancestry
  • Gender
  • Immigration
  • Race
  • Globalization

There is a strong evidence with respect to the factors that promote positive mental health. The three most significant determinants of mental health are social inclusion, freedom from discrimination and violence, and access to economic resources.


Stigma is when someone is viewed in a negative way because of a characteristic or personal trait. People with mental health concerns often face negative attitudes and beliefs from themselves, their community, or the institutions they are apart of; which can lead to discrimination, both direct and unintentional.

Stigma can result in negative effects, such as:

  • A reluctance to seek help
  • Fewer opportunities in school, work, or social
  • activities

  • Bullying, violence, or harassment
  • Lack of understanding from friends, co-workers, or family
  • Isolation
  • Internalized self-beliefs regarding future success or happiness

How to reduce stigma in your area or department

  • Educate yourself and your department about mental health; including, the signs and symptoms of mental health concerns, how to respond to people in distress, how to care for your mental health, and what resources are available to our community.
  • Normalize mental health struggles by talking about mental health on a regular basis, sharing your own experiences, and sharing stories about other people in our community who have experienced challenges.
  • Examine your own beliefs and attitudes. What beliefs do you have about mental health? How do they affect how you interact with your peers, colleagues, and family members. Be conscious of your word choices, as our words can have both a positive and negative impact.
  • Support people who come to you with concerns. Providing a safe and supportive environment can encourage people to take the first steps towards reaching out for help.