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

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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.

  1. ConnexOntario provides accurate and up-to-date mental health information 24/7 by telephone, chat and email.
  2. Wellness Together Canada is a free and confidential mental health and substance use support available 24/7 by text or phone.
  3. The Government of Ontario's COVID-19 resources page provides links to mental health, wellness and substance use supports for the general public.
  4. 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.

  1. Engaging Clients Who Use Substances
  2. Nursing Towards Equity: Applying the Social Determinants of Health in Practice
  3. Integrating Tobacco Interventions into Daily Practice
  4. Tobacco Use and Cessation with Youth and Young Adults

Read more

Youth Mental Health and Addiction
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.

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Nurse Educator Mental Health and Addiction Resource Toolkit
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.

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Videos & archived webinars
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.

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Mental Health and Substance Use BPGs

See all our guidelines



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.

Queen's Park on the Road (QPOR)

It allows RNAO members to meet their MPPs within their local constituency to discuss key nursing, health, and health-care issues that matter to them and that affect their day-to-day practice.

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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.

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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.

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Mental Health Nursing Interest Group (MHNIG) logo

Mental Health Nursing Interest Group (MHNIG)

MHNIG, an RNAO interest group, promotes:

  • the health and wellbeing of people who are at risk of experiencing mental illness and/or emotional distress
  • mental health services responsive to the needs and wishes of individuals with lived experience and the community
  • the role of RNs and NPs in serving people with mental health concerns

Read more  Join MHNIG

Community Health Nurses Initiatives Group (CHNIG)

Community Health Nurses' Initiatives Group (CHNIG) 

CHNIG, an RNAO interest group, provides a voice for all community health nurses (CHN). The group works to:

  • build capacity and leadership in CHNs
  • strengthen the profile of CHNs and articulate the significance of their practice
  • maximize nursing student involvement in community health nursing
  • influence the health-care system, health and social policy affecting their work and the public they serve

Read more  Join CHNIG

Other resources

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.

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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.

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