The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s (RNAO) Mental Health and Substance Use Program enhances evidence-based care and services related to mental health and substance use across all health-care settings.
Established in 2006, the program supports nurses and other health professionals to achieve these goals by:
- developing and implementing of best practice guidelines (BPG)
- helping nurses increase capacity by providing education and networking opportunities
- collaborating through partnerships with provincial and national organizations to implement best practices in mental health and substance use
- advocating for organizational, policy and system changes to ensure clients receive quality evidence-based mental health and substance use care
Resources for support
If you are in crisis, please call your local distress line (learn more). If you are facing a mental health emergency, please call 911.
RNAO knows that people across Ontario are experiencing tremendous levels of physical and emotional stress at this time. Nurses who are struggling or feeling overwhelmed can reach out to any of the resources listed below. Most are also open to other health-care providers or members of the public.
- ConnexOntario provides accurate and up-to-date mental health information 24/7 by telephone, chat and email.
- Wellness Together Canada is a free and confidential mental health and substance use support available 24/7 by text or phone.
- The Government of Ontario's COVID-19 resources page provides links to mental health, wellness and substance use supports for the general public.
- FOR NURSES ONLY: Nurses' Health Program is a free, voluntary program for Ontario nurses designed to encourage them to seek treatment for substance use or mental health disorders.
Webinars and events
Our program offers continuing education for nurses and other health professionals.
See below for upcoming opportunities.
Build your knowledge and skills
These modules can broaden your knowledge and skills to better support individuals experiencing mental health or substance use issues. As a nurse in any practice setting, you can play a significant role in supporting and caring for people with mental health or substance use issues.
- Engaging Clients Who Use Substances
- Nursing Towards Equity: Applying the Social Determinants of Health in Practice
- Integrating Tobacco Interventions into Daily Practice
- Tobacco Use and Cessation with Youth and Young Adults
Youth Mental Health and Addiction
This toolkit supports the implementation of evidence-based, youth-led mental health promotion and substance use prevention initiatives in school settings. It also provides users with a comprehensive step-by-step understanding of the YMHAC initiative and all of its components.
Nurse Educator Mental Health and Addiction
This evidence-based toolkit helps educators effectively integrate mental health and substance use knowledge, skills and best practices into undergraduate nursing curriculums. It is also relevant for nurse educators, nursing students, new graduate nurses, nurses and other health-care providers across the continuum of care to help integrate best practices related to mental health and substance use.
Videos and archived webinars
The RNAO Mental Health and Substance Use Program offers continuing educational opportunities and resources for nurses and other health providers to develop and enhance knowledge and skills.
We envision an Ontario health system that is fully accessible, person-centred, integrated and publicly funded. Join us and add your voice.
For more information, visit our Policy & Political Action webpage.
The criminalization of simple drug possession in cities across Ontario is costing lives. Toronto is no exception. On May 15, RNAO wrote to candidates in Toronto’s 2023 by-election for mayor asking them to sign a pledge to support decriminalizing simple drug possession in Toronto. Find out which candidates signed the pledge.
Policy & political action
Through our advocacy work, ongoing consultations with the Ontario government, we are vigilant in our mission to enhance the nursing profession. Members are often among the first to learn of proposed changes to public policy and members often provide input in policy making decisions. RNAO regularly monitors and responds to issues relating to the nursing workforce, scope of practice, nursing culture and safety, education and regulation with evidence-based recommendations. RNAO continues to sound the alarm on the need to put more resources into primary care, home and community care to decrease the number of patients in hospital.
In Focus: RNAO Mental Health and Substance Use Best Practices Program
Mental health and wellbeing are essential to everyday health. Pre-pandemic data suggested that each year, one in five Canadians experienced a mental health concern, highlighting a crisis in Canada. Since the pandemic began, 50 per cent of Canadians have reported worsening mental health, with increases in stress levels, depression, anxiety and, higher rates of substance use and associated deaths related to opioid toxicity.
In Focus: Nurses' health and wellbeing and RNAO
The global pandemic has clearly demonstrated the importance of healthy work environments (HWE) for nurses. Our already compromised health system has faltered over the past two years, causing a myriad of nursing challenges such as wage restraints, understaffing, lack of support and overwhelming workloads.