Earlier this week, Ascentum had the pleasure of attending the launch of Canada’s first ever national mental health strategy at Ottawa’s Fairmont Chateau Laurier. The event demonstrated the inclusive and thoughtful ways in which the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) strategy team engaged Canadians to co-create a “blueprint to translate aspiration for change into action, to draw together people’s efforts across the country into an unstoppable movement to improve mental health.” (3, 2012)
Shana Calixte, Executive Director of the Sudbury-based Northern Initiative for Social Action, a peer support advocacy organization and Florence Budden, Chair of the Schizophrenic Society of Canada and a mental health nurse from Newfoundland and Labrador, had a prominent place on the podium alongside former MHCC Chair the Honourable Michael Kirby (and current Chair, Partners for Mental Health Foundation), MHCC Chair Dr. David Goldbloom, MHCC President & CEO Louise Bradley, Federal Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq, and journalist and mental health advocate Valerie Pringle, who served as emcee. Presenters spoke passionately about why the Strategy matters, what they are committed to do to advance its implementation and what they request of others, including governments, business, community groups and every day citizens. They shared personal stories about how mental health illness has affected them directly – and why the Strategy, if implemented, will make a huge difference in the lives of millions.
Calixte and Budden praised the Commission for engaging Canadians (broadly and deeply), particularly in soliciting the views of the diversity of people with lived experience of mental illness. We at Ascentum are happy to have been able to support the Mental Health Strategy team’s in-person and online engagement initiatives since 2008. We have been and continue to be impressed by the commitment, intelligence and determination of the Mental Health Strategy team – and inspired by the strength, courage and honesty of all those Canadians who gave so much of themselves in the public and stakeholder dialogues and roundtables, especially those with lived experience of mental illness. The synergy of these two forces – the Strategy team and those engaged – is seen in the scope and ambition of the six strategic directions:
- Promote mental health across the lifespan in homes, schools, and workplaces, and prevent mental illness and suicide wherever possible.
- Foster recovery and well-being for people of all ages living with mental health problems and illnesses, and uphold their rights.
- Provide access to the right combination of services, treatments and supports, when and where people need them.
- Reduce disparities in risk factors and access to mental health services, and strengthen the response to the needs of diverse communities and Northerners.
- Work with First Nations, Inuit and Metis to address their mental health needs, acknowledging their distinct circumstances, rights and cultures.
- Mobilize leadership, improve knowledge, and foster collaboration at all levels.
The Commission seeks to enlist as many Canadians, businesses, community groups, and politicians as it can in this battle against injustice, stigma and the loss of human potential.
Click here to see how you can contribute. Turn your good intentions into action and make Canada a leader, rather than a laggard, in mental health promotion and illness prevention.
-Mary Pat MacKinnon-