Addiction: A habit that is often hard to stop and that increasingly interferes with a person’s life. The habit could involve a substance such as alcohol or another drug, or an activity such as gambling. Not everyone agrees about the exact meaning of addiction, but the checklists for determining if someone has an addiction usually include these items:

  • The person cannot stop the substance use or the activity, despite trying to stop again and again.
  • The substance or the activity has become the focus (or preoccupation) of the person’s life.
  • The person continues the use or activity despite severe negative consequences, such as imprisonment or financial disaster.

Source: CAMH (n.d.) Introduction to addiction.

Carcinogen: An agent that can increase the risk of cancer.
Source: Health Canada (2011). Carcinogens in Tobacco Smoke

Civic engagement: When citizens have attitudes and behaviours that lead them to be involved in their society or community.  This includes taking part in community and volunteer organizations. 

Community: A group of people united by their geographic place, identity, culture, ethnicity faith, and even interests. According to the WHO, a community is made up of people “who share a common culture, values and norms, are arranged in a social structure according to relationships which the community has developed over a period of time. Members of a community gain their personal and social identity by sharing common beliefs, values and norms which have been developed by the community in the past and may be modified in the future. They exhibit some awareness of their identity as a group, and share common needs and a commitment to meeting them.” Most people belong to multiple communities.
Source: WHO (1998). Health promotion glossary.

Contraband tobacco:  Tobacco products that are not taxed or regulated and are illegal. Contraband is often sold for cheaper prices that legal tobacco and does not include health warnings or labels.
Source: Niagara Region (n.d.) Contraband Tobacco.

Dependency: A term sometimes used to mean addiction. Psychological dependence occurs when a person feels they need a drug to function or feel comfortable. Physical dependence occurs when a person’s body has become used to the presence of a drug.
Source: CAMH (n.d.) Introduction to addiction.

Determinants of health: Social, economic, and environmental factors that affect people’s health. The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified twelve factors that influence the health of people in Canada:

  1.  Income
  2. Social support
  3. Education and literacy
  4. Employment and working conditions
  5. Social environments
  6. Physical environments
  7. Personal health practices and coping skills
  8. Healthy child development
  9. Biology and genetic endowment
  10. Health services
  11.  Gender
  12.  Culture

Source: PHAC (2011) What Is the population health approach?

Developmental assets: See protective factors.

Discrimination: The Toronto Board of Educaton defines discrimination as “unfair or prejudicial treatment of individuals or groups on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, color, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, or disability, as set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code, or on the basis of other, similar factors. Discrimination, whether intentional or unintentional, has the effect of preventing or limiting access to opportunities, benefits, or advantages that are available to other members of society. Discrimination may be evident in organizational and institutional structures, policies, procedures, and programs, as well as in the attitudes and behaviors of individuals.”
Source: TDSB (2000). Challenging Class Bias.

Drug abuse: See substance misuse.

Drug misuse: See substance misuse.

Equity: The equal opportunity everyone to participate in and benefit from society. The Ontario Ministry of Education defines equity as a “condition or state of fair, inclusive, and respectful treatment of all people. Equity does not mean treating people the same without regard for individual differences.” Achieving equity requires that we understand and address the factors that contribute to unequal outcomes among different populations.
Source: Ontario Ministry of Education. (2009). Ontario’s equity and inclusive education strategy.

Gender: The norms and expectations for the roles that people should assume and how they should or should not look, act, feel, or think if they are male or female. These norms and expectations are socially created. They change across cultures and historical times.
Source: Plan International (2011). Plan’s Policy on Gender Equality.

Harm reduction: A public health approach that aims to minimize the harms caused by certain conditions that pose serious risks to individuals, groups, and society. Harm reduction is not about stopping people from doing something risky. It is about showing people how to more safely do whatever they choose to do.
Source: Plan International (2011). Plan’s Policy on Gender Equality.

Harmful drinking: A pattern of drinking that is already causing damage to one’s health (e.g., alcohol-related injuries).
Source: Paglia-Boak, A., Adlaf, E.M., & Mann, R.E. (2011). OSDUHS highlights: Drug use among Ontario students 1977-2011.

Hazardous use: A pattern of drinking that increases the likelihood of future medical and physical problems (e.g., dependence).
Source: Paglia-Boak, A., Adlaf, E.M., & Mann, R.E. (2011). OSDUHS highlights: Drug use among Ontario students 1977-2011.

Health: Health is an important resource for everyday living: when we feel happy, healthy and safe, we are better prepared to do well at school, earn a living, build and maintain supportive relationships, and participate fully in our community. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease. Health is created and lived by people within the settings of their everyday life: where they learn, work, play, and love. Health is created by caring for oneself and others, by being able to make decisions and have control over one’s life circumstances, and by ensuring that the society one lives in creates conditions that allow the attainment of health by all members.”
Source: WHO (1998). Health promotion glossary.

Health inequities: Differences in health status and risk-taking among groups of people that are avoidable, unfair and systematically related to social inequality and disadvantage. Health inequities are caused by differences in access to the determinants of health and protective factors among groups of people. In other words, health inequities occur because it is harder for some people to get the things they need to develop and maintain their health, such as nutritious food, decent housing, education, and health services.
Source: Gardner, B. (2008). Health Equity Discussion Paper.

Health literacy: The World Health Organization defines health literacy as “the cognitive and social skills which determine the motivation and ability of individuals to gain access to, understand and use information in ways which promote and maintain good health … Health literacy implies the achievement of a level of knowledge, personal skills and confidence to take action to improve personal and community health by changing personal lifestyles and living conditions.”
Source: WHO (1998). Health promotion glossary.

Health promotion: An approach to helping people and communities take control of and improve their health. Health promotion uses many different strategies to increase people’s health literacy and create environments in which the healthy choice is the easy choice. Source: WHO (1998). Health promotion glossary.

LGBTQ: An initialism for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and questioning.
Source: Wikipedia (n.d.,) LGBT.

Living skills: Personal skills, interpersonal skills, and critical and creative thinking skills that help people find their way through life and promote their health and well-being. Personal skills build young people’s resilience by preparing them to protect and maintain their mental health and well-being. Interpersonal skills help young people interact positively with their peers and others, build healthy relationships, and work well in groups. Critical and creative thinking skills help young people solve problems, make decisions, set goals, and learn from experience.
Source: Ontario Ministry of Education. (2010). The Ontario curriculum, Grades 1-8: Health and physical education, interim edition.

Mental health: An important resource for daily life. Our understanding of mental health continues to evolve.  It is generally agreed that mental health is more than just the absence of mental illness. Mental health “… involves our ability to think, feel, act and interact in a way that we can enjoy our lives and cope with the challenges that arise. Mental health also involves how we think about and appraise ourselves, our lives and the people we know and care about. It involves our ability to make realistic sense of—and react meaningfully to—the world around us. It affects our ability to make choices and decision” (Barankin and Khanlou, 2007). Many definitions of mental health emphasize the importance of respect for culture, equity, social justice, interconnection, and personal dignity in good mental health.
Source: Barakin, T., & Khanlou, N. (2007). Growing up resilient: Ways to build resilience in children and youth.
Source: CAMH (n.d.). Best practice guidelines for mental health promotion programs: Children and youth.

Mental illness: The Public Health Agency of Canada defines mental illness as  “a biological condition of the brain that causes alterations in thinking, mood or behaviour (or some combination thereof) associated with significant distress and impaired functioning.” Mental illnesses include:

  • mood disorders such as major depression and biopolar disorder
  • anxiety disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • eating disorders such as anorexia-nervosa
  •  psychosis
  • attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • substance-related disorders.

Source: PHAC. (2006). The human face of mental illness and mental health in Canada.

Mental health problem: Diminished cognitive, social, or emotional abilities that do not meet the criteria for a mental illness. There are two categories of mental health problems:

  • those that are externalized, or turned outwards, and expressed as risk-taking behaviours
  • those that are internalized, or turned inwards, such as depression.

Source: Paglia-Boak, A., Adlaf, E.M., & Mann, R.E. (2011). OSDUHS highlights: Drug use among Ontario students 1977-2011
Source: Wishart, J., (2010). Mental health: A guide to action

Mental health promotion: The application of health promotion principles and strategies to support people and communities to take control of their lives and to interact with their environments in ways that enhance emotional and spiritual strength. Mental health promotion involves increasing self-esteem, coping skills, social support, and well-being in all individuals and communities. It means fostering individual resilience and promoting socially supportive environments. It also means challenging discrimination against those with mental health problems. Respect for culture, equity, social justice, interconnections, and personal dignity are essential in this endeavor. Like mental health, our understanding of mental health promotion continues to evolve.
Source: CAMH (n.d.). Best practice guidelines for mental health promotion programs: Children and youth.

Newcomer: A person who has recently moved to Canada, and is in the process of adapting to life here and learning to negotiate Canadian systems such as housing, employment, and education. Some government departments limit this term to immigrants and refugees who have lived in Canada for less than three years. Others limit it to five years.
Source: Planned Parenthood of Toronto (2005). Improving Access for Newcomer Youth to Sexual Health Resources and Services.

Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (OSDUHS): A population survey of Ontario students in grades 7 - 12, conducted through the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. This self-administered, anonymous survey is conducted across the province every two years. Its purpose is to identify epidemiological trends in student drug use, mental health, physical activity, and risk behaviour, as well as identifying risk and protective factors.
Source: CAMH (2011). Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey.

Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion: The guiding document for health promotion efforts in Canada and around the world. It was developed by the World Health Organization in 1986 and is sometimes called “the Charter” by health promoters.
Source: WHO (1998). Health promotion glossary.

Participatory action research: A way of doing research in which the people who are affected by the problem or issue take an active role in the research method. An empowering way to collect, organize, categorize, and make sense of data about a problem or issue with the aim of informing actions that address it.
Source: IICRD (n.d.). Growing up in cities: Creative toolsCivic engagement of young people.

Population health: The approach used by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to understand and improve the health of Canadians. Rather than focusing on individual people, population health focuses on the entire population or groups of people – such as youth, women, or newcomers. Identifying and taking action to address health inequities among groups of people is a necessary part of improving the overall health of the population. Determinants of health are an important tool in population health research and action.
Source: PHAC (2011) What Is the population health approach?

Positive mental health: The World Health Organization defines this as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” The Canadian Institute for Health Information defines positive mental health as “having the ability to enjoy life, deal with life’s challenges, emotional and spiritual wellbeing and social connections, and respecting culture, equity, social justice and personal dignity.”
Source: Canadian Institutes for Health Information (CIHI). (2009). Improving the health of Canadians 2009: Exploring positive mental health.
Source: World Health Organization (WHO). (2010). Factsheet No 220: Mental health: Strengthening our response.

Positive youth development: A strength-based approach focused on supporting youth to thrive in adolescence and successfully transition into adulthood. There is not an agreed-upon definition of positive youth development. Positive youth development initiatives include elements such as social connection, living skills, social inclusion, health and physical literacy, citizenship and contribution, academic success, and employability.
Source:  Alliance for Children and Youth of Waterloo Region. (2009). Strength-based approaches: Improving the lives of our children and youth.
Source: Building Partnerships for Youth. (2009). Elements of youth development defined.

Prejudice: A state of mind or set of attitudes held by one person or group against another person or group, which casts the other in an inferior light despite the absence of legitimate or sufficient evidence.”
Source: CAMH (2005). Beyond the Label: An educational kit to promote awareness and understanding of the impact of stigma on people living with concurrent mental health and substance use problems

Protective factors (also known as developmental assets): The Ontario Public Health Association defines these as “the positive conditions and personal and social resources that support health and well-being, reduce the potential for high-risk behaviours, and promote resiliency among youth. There are three categories of protective factors: individual strengths, supportive environments, and a solid foundation (Ryder, 2006). Similar to risk factors, protective factors tend to cluster together. There tends to be an inverse relationship with risk factors, such that by enhancing the protective factors in a young person’s environment, there is also a reduction in the number of risk factors (Search Institute, 2009).”
Source:  OPHA (2011). Youth engagement toolkit: Working with middle school students to enhance protective factors & resiliency.

Resilience: People’s ability to cope with, adapt to, and bounce back from the stresses and challenges they face. Resilient people are optimistic and  learn from challenging experiences. They become stronger and better prepared to cope with future stresses and adversity.
Source: Barakin, T., & Khanlou, N. (2007). Growing up resilient: Ways to build resilience in children and youth.

Risk factors: The Ontario Public Health Association defines these as “conditions and characteristics of individuals, families and communities that increase the likelihood that a young person will engage in risk-taking behaviours or experience negative health outcomes.”
Source: WHO (1998). Health promotion glossary.

Risk-taking behaviour: The World Health Organization defines this as “forms of behaviour which are proven to be associated with increased susceptibility to a specific disease or ill-health… [Risk-taking] behaviours are usually defined as “risky” on the basis of epidemiological or other social data.”
Source: WHO (1998). Health promotion glossary.

Sexual orientation: The sex of the people to whom one is emotionally and sexually attracted. Heterosexual means attraction to people of the opposite sex (also known as ‘straight’). Homosexual means attraction to people of the same sex. A bisexual person is attracted to both males and females.
Source: PHAC (2008). Questions & answers: Sexual Orientation in Schools.

Social capital: There are many definitions for social capital.  The definition used by Keleher and Armstrong to explain the Determinants of Mental Health is: the resources available to people and to society that are provided through networks of people with shared norms, values and understandings.  Shared norms, values and understandings encourage cooperation among members of the network.  Social capital has many elements, including: informal cooperation between people (known as social resources), cultural resources such as libraries and schools, economic resources such as jobs and community gardens, and collective resources such as self-help groups.
Source: Keleher, H., & Armstrong, R. (2005). Evidence-based mental health promotion resource.

Social denormalization: A tobacco control strategy that aims to decrease the social acceptability of tobacco use. Social denormalization is different from tobacco industry denormalization, which focuses on changing how people view companies that make tobacco products.
Source: CCTC (2011). Social denormalization.

Social inclusion: This term is used to describe situations in which people feel connected to and supported by other people, have resources in their community that help navigate daily life and deal with challenges, and can take part in community groups and help to make decisions about their community.
Source: Keleher, H., & Armstrong, R. (2005). Evidence-based mental health promotion resource.

Stigma: A socially constructed label reflecting negative attitudes that people hold toward others whom they deem ‘different’. It is manifested in bias, distrust, stereotyping, fear, embarrassment, anger, or avoidance. Stigma is part of a cycle: it both leads to, and results from, prejudice and discriminatory behaviour. Stigma is the ‘mark’ (stemming from its original meaning of a visible mark on the skin). Prejudice is the attitude leading to and stemming from stigma. Discrimination is the behaviour associated with stigma.
Source: CAMH (2005). Beyond the Label: An educational kit to promote awareness and understanding of the impact of stigma on people living with concurrent mental health and substance use problems.

Strength-based approach:  The Alliance for Children and Youth of Waterloo Region defines this as  “a manner of doing things rooted in the belief that people (and groups of people i.e. organizations, neighbourhoods, communities) have existing competencies; that people have resources and are capable of learning new skills and solving problems; that people can use existing competencies to identify and address their own concerns; and that people can be involved in the process of discovery and learning… A strength-based approach is a perspective more than a set of hard and fast rules. It strives to lead with the positive and values trust, respect, intentionality and optimism.
Source: Alliance for Children and Youth of Waterloo Region. (2009). Strength-based approaches: Improving the lives of our children and youth.

Substance abuse: See substance misuse.

Substance misuse: The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care defines this as “harmful use of any substance, such as alcohol, a street drug, an over-the-counter drug, or a prescribed drug.” In other words, substance misuse is any use of a substance that causes a physical, mental, emotional, legal, or social problem.
Source: Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (n.d.). Ontario Public health standardsPrevention of injury and substance misuse.

Tobacco industry denormalization (TID): A best practice health strategy that unveils the deceptive marketing tactics used by the tobacco industry to target children and youth. This strategy places responsibility on the tobacco industry as a disease vector and avoids blaming individuals.

Transphobia:  The fear and/or hatred of transgender individuals that is exhibited by prejudice, discrimination, intimidation, or acts of violence.
Source: PHAC (2008). Questions & answers: Sexual Orientation in Schools.

Youth development: See positive youth development.

Youth engagement:The meaningful and sustained participation of young people in activities that matter to them.  There is not one common definition for youth engagement as the process can look different for different people and needs. However it commonly includes: involvement in decision making processes, promotion of leadership, supportive adult allies, and listening to and respecting the ideas of youth.
Source: Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development. (n.d.) The Toolkit: Resources, Tools and Strategies for Youth Engagement