COMPASS for Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs)

Key Messages

  • Spirituality plays an important role in overall well-being for many people
  • Mental illness impacts a large number of people in our community
  • Despite the stigma that continues to exist against mental illnesses, many people in Sarnia Lambton report talking to
  • Faith-based organizations can help to (adapted from SAHMSA):
    • Educate about signs and symptoms of mental illness and the importance of fostering positive mental health
    • Connect people in your community to local mental health care
    • Foster an environment where members can talk openly about mental health and mental illness

We All Have Mental Health

Good mental health is not simply the absence of illness.  According to the World health Organization (2014), mental health is a state of well-being where individuals are able to realize their potential, cope with day to day stresses, work productively, and can contribute to their community.  Individuals who are flourishing are those who report regularly experiencing:

  • Emotional well-being (interest, satisfaction and happiness with life)
  • Psychological well-being (meaning, purpose, confidence, and self-acceptance)
  • Social well-being (belonging and social connection)

Good mental health is integral to our overall health and many (76%) of Sarnia Lambton residents are flourishing (according to Keyes dual continua model). 

Mental Health Problems in Sarnia-Lambton

However, many people are impacted by mental health problems with 1 in 5 Lambton residents report being diagnosed with a mental illness and 1 in 4 report taking medication or time off work or school to deal with mental health problems.  And despite 46% of Sarnia Lambton residents report speaking to their friends and family about their own mental health, stigma against mental illness continues to.  1 in 10 Lambton residents report that talking to a mental health professional shows weakness or a lack of strength to manage one’s own challenges. 

What Can Faith-Based Organizations Do?

Luckily, faith-based organizations play a large role in supporting the well-being of their community.  According to Statistics Canada, spirituality and mental health is connected as Canadians who indicate a strong spiritual connection are more to report being mentally healthy than those who do not indicate a spiritual connection. Promoting positive mental health will not only benefit those individuals and their families who are experiencing mental health problems but everyone will feel more connected, supported, and healthier. 

Faith-based organizations can help to (adapted from SAHMSA):

  • Educate about signs and symptoms of mental illness and the importance of fostering positive mental health
  • Connect people in your community to local mental health care
  • Foster an environment where members can talk openly about mental health and mental illness


Compasses don’t tell us which direction to go but they help us to know where we are and make a decision about where to go.  The acronym COMPASS can help us to orient ourselves and our work towards becoming a mentally healthier space. 


Connect with the leaders in your organization Sign-up to Minds Connected to demonstrate your interest. 


Identify a group of committed individuals who are interested in supporting a mental health initiative. This could include a diverse group of people including:

  • Leaders
  • Individuals or families with lived experience
  • Allies or other members who are passionate about promoting mental health


Even though you want to get started with initiatives, its important to understand what exists in your local community.  Answering the following questions will help you to understand (and save you work in the future):

  • What does our organization already know about mental health and mental illness?
    • What gaps exist in your knowledge?
    • What do you wish you knew more about?
    • What do others say?  Ask a broad range of stakeholders
    • What is a need?
  • What mental health care exists in the community?
  • What is our capacity to deliver mental health awareness education? 
    • What resources do we currently have to support a mental health initiative?
    • Who else can we leverage for expertise and resources?
  • What is our ultimate vision for our organization related to mental health?


Focus on one or more of these four goals:

  1. Learn: build your own understanding about mental health and mental illness.  Check out some of the links listed for reliable facts and information about mental illness. 
  2. Connect: if someone in your community needs help, connect them to a local community resource for appropriate mental health care.
  3. Foster safety: create a space where people can talk honestly and openly about mental health without fear.
  4. Promote awareness: provide opportunities for others to learn about mental health and mental illness such as educational forums, conversations with experts and people with lived experience, and offer reliable information in a discrete way, (ie. Pamphlets that people can pick up).

Here’s a couple of things to remember:

  • One-time events and presentations build awareness but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t last long.  Smaller, repeated awareness tends to stick better. 
  • Safety first!  Psychological safety is important when talking about mental health problems.  If you think a conversation may become emotional, make sure you know who can help or invite a mental health professional in to be available on site. 
  • Plan to evaluate your initiatives before you start acting.  Answer this question: how will you know your work as made a difference?  What information can you share with others to demonstrate your impact?


And.. go!  The plan is in place so its time to execute it. 

Don’t forget to implement the evaluation plan you prepared.


So, what did you learn?  How and with whom can we share our learnings?  Let everyone know how it went!  We can help you analyze some of your evaluation data so you can share back with your relevant stakeholders to celebrate your success and help others take advantage of the lessons you learned. 

Sharing can be helpful for the next stage, sustaining your efforts.  Sharing your results with your staff, students, Board leaders, school community, and potential funders will help to rally support for your efforts and help others to see the value in the program going forward.  And don’t forget to celebrate!


Learning about mental health doesn’t just happen one time.  Creating a mentally healthy space is a process and so determining how you want to sustain the learning, program, or initiative is important to the sustain the benefits!  Some considerations:

  • A committee or standing agenda item on another committee
  • Researching grants available to hold an annual awareness event
  • Engage with local community partners to provide regular programming
  • Plan activities for annual awareness weeks such as Mental Health Awareness Week (first week in May) or Mental Illness Awareness Week (second week in October)