Suicide and violence related to mental illness have made headlines all over North America. It is unfortunate that suicide and violence related to people with untreated mental illness had to reach such extreme crises before the alarm bells were loud enough to get much needed attention for issues that have existed for decades. But I think the recent response overall has been to recognize we must make necessary changes and provide proper care for people who need it in order to prevent similar events from happening in the future.
The Mental Health Commission of Canada launched the Canadian Mental Health Strategy on May 8, 2012. The publication of Changing Directions, Changing Lives came as a result of years of advocacy and hard work by many individuals who came together to speak out about the deficiencies in the mental health system and the criminal justice system in its treatment of people with mental illness, the need for psychologically healthy and safe workplaces, and the need to support youth, adults, seniors, and families in all races suffering with mental health issues. Addiction, poverty, homelessness, and crime are problems which can be outcomes of having a serious mental illness.
In the pages of the Strategy, I read about the need for a national social movement to help push mental health initiatives forward. The Bell Let's Talk campaign and Hockey Talks are two huge steps forward to create such a movement.
Bell Let's Talk, a 5-year multi-million dollar project which began in 2010, has people talking about mental health across Canada and provides funds for improving mental health care and resources across the nation. Bell Let's Talk is also one sponsor of the CAMIMH Faces of Mental Illness campaign and the Champions of Mental Health campaign which recognize advocacy and other work toward improving mental health in Canada.
Hockey Talks is another initiative that I find to be very powerful. This month, the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets are speaking out about mental health and wellness at games nights and online. In the video below, Kevin Bieksa pays tribute to Rick Rypien, a former Vancouver Canuck, who battled with depression and committed suicide.
In British Columbia, Coast Mental Health and The Kettle Friendship Society do good work in providing housing, meals, and other supports to people with mental illness. The Courage to Come Back Awards sponsored by Coast Mental Health recognizes people in the community who have mental illness and addiction issues who are an inspiration that recovery is possible.
Bridgeross Communications is one publisher of many memoirs and books by mental health consumers and their families who want to shed light on what it means to have a mental illness. Hidden Lives recently published by Brindle and Glass is an anthology of similar stories. Books such as these inspire and inform readers around the world.
As a country, we are having the conversations, reducing stigma, and building momentum and awareness. We need to dispel the myths and help make it better for so many of us who are affected by these issues.