Last year, we had the privilege of working with the Mental Health Commission of Canada as it embarked on an epic journey to develop a mental health strategy for Canada.
I say “epic” because the magnitude of this task cannot be under-estimated. Consider: the prevalence of mental illness and mental health problems in Canada (one in four Canadians will at point or another in their life struggle with mental health issues); the chronic under-funding and fragmentation of the Canadian mental health system (which is in effect a patchwork of systems held together by a mix of goodwill and duct tape); the complex constitutional context in which any reform must occur (not to mention that many social services are delivered by municipal and regional authorities) and… Well, you get the picture.
Enter Howard, Gillian and Mary – the Commission’s original Mental Health Strategy Team, and among the most dedicated people I have had the privilege of working with. Together, they rose to the challenge of catalyzing a national dialogue on this very complex issue by engaging Canada’s mental health community in 15 regional dialogues, and a far-reaching online consultation. When all was said and done, we had heard from over 2,000 individual Canadians, hundreds of stakeholder groups, and had collected enough notes to compete with War and Peace for the title of world’s longest novel. More importantly, the outcomes of this engagement process were very real: the Commission listened carefully to the voice of participants, and completely rewrote their Framework for a Mental Health Strategy for Canada.
This is why we couldn’t resist nominating the Commission for the prestigious Reinhard Mohn Prize 2011, which seeks to recognize a project that “vitalizes democracy through participation”. This is an international competition, and the Mental Health Commission of Canada is among the 20 projects shortlisted for the grand prize (among over 100 projects from around the world).
If you have a moment, please take a few minutes to visit Vitalizing Democracy website: members of the public are invited to vote for the shortlist project of their choice, and this public support will be taken into consideration in the jury’s final assessment. You will need to register to cast your vote, but it takes only a few minutes to do so.
The Commission has my vote… Please give it yours!
– Manon Abud -