Youth life promotion is an approach based on the belief that all young people are capable of finding their own path to a holistic and meaningful life. Because all young people are unique, with unique strengths and potential, each and every one of them will have different ideas of what it means to live a good life, and each will have different ways of achieving that too. Life promotion sets the goal of helping young people do just that: find that place where they’re able to flourish despite the challenges they face.
Much like mental health promotion, life promotion efforts are holistic, strengths-based and empowerment-focused1. They align seamlessly with recovery-oriented models of mental health care2 as they aim to honour young people’s individuality and build their resilience through their personal strengths, available resources and relationships with those around them1. Life promotion doesn’t focus on reducing suicidality as much as it focuses on cultivating the strongest possible safeguards against it – namely young people’s sense of belonging, meaning, purpose and hope.1,3 Life promotion also considers the influence of factors such as cultural heritage and values, community resources and support networks in shaping one’s mental health4. While the approach tends to resonate particularly well with FNIM youth and their communities3,4 it’s one that’s pivotal to any well-rounded suicide prevention initiative.
Why is life promotion important?
In order for your youth suicide prevention efforts to have a lasting impact, they have to align with what youth consider to be important. Youth want to feel as though they have a place in the world. They want things to look forward to, people to connect with, and a purpose for living. As they work to address these needs, life promotion strategies enhance problem-focused suicide prevention, risk management and postvention strategies and help young people flourish as members of the community. By helping suicide prevention strategies better align with youth’s goals and desires, life promotion can help your community efforts become more naturally sustainable1.
Carrying out youth suicide prevention, risk management and postvention efforts through a life promotion lens will ensure that your work reflects not only the best evidence on ways to reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviours, but also what we know to be meaningful in young people’s lives. This life-oriented approach should transpire in the way young people are engaged one-on-one and in the goals set for your community efforts altogether.
This diagram gives examples as to how youth suicide prevention efforts can be carried out through a life promotion lens.
The First Nations Mental Health Continuum Framework is an evidence-informed report by Health Canada which describes a framework for better understanding mental wellness. It also provides guidance to FNIM communities on ways to reinforce their mental wellness programs and services.
Principles of recovery oriented mental health practice is a short document by the Australian Government’s Department of Health that describes some of the core elements of recovery-oriented practice in mental health care which include recognizing the uniqueness of individuals, giving them real choices, and engaging with them with a partnership approach.
- 1. a. b. c. d. Tighe, J., & McKay, K. (2012). Alive and kicking goals!: prelimenary findings from a Kimberley suicde prevention program. Advances in Mental Health, 10(3), 240-245.
- 2. Australian Government Department of Health (2010). Principles of recovery oriented mental health practice. Retrieved from: https://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/CFA833CB8C1AA178CA257BF0001E7520/$File/servpri.pdf
- 3. a. b. Health Canada, (2015), First Nations Mental Health Continuum Framework. Retrieved from: https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1576093687903/1576093725971
- 4. a. b. LaFromboise, T.D. & Lewis, H.A. (2008). The Zuni life skills development program: A school/community-based suicide prevention intervention. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 38(3), 343-353.