Supporting Mental Health in Canada: The Mental Health Commission of Canada
September 10, 2021
Mental illness is everywhere and almost each of us knows someone who has suffered from it. We see it in the workplace, among co-workers and in our families, where we become intimately acquainted with the pain and suffering it causes. In Budget 2007, our Government committed $55 million over five years towards a mental health commission, to address mental health issues in Canada. This commitment was realized on August 31st when Prime Minister Harper announced the final selection of the Board of Directors for the newly created Mental Health Commission of Canada that will support those suffering from mental illness and their families.

It is estimated that one in five Canadians will develop some kind of mental illness in his or her lifetime. In addition, nearly one million Canadians are plagued with a severe or persistent disorder and it is now the fastest-growing category of disability insurance claims in Canada. Fortunately, we now understand that mental illness is not a supernatural phenomenon or a character flaw, but caused by physiological, as well as environmental factors, and that most importantly, it can be controlled and often cured.

Despite how far we have come in our understanding of mental illness, there is still a need to improve the ways we develop and share our knowledge of mental health issues, which was brought forward by the Honourable Michael Kirby and Senator Keon, who led the Senate Committee in recommending the creation of a mental health commission.

Our Government has delivered on this recommendation by establishing the Mental Health Commission of Canada, which will be the cornerstone of the Government’s strategy to address mental health issues in Canada. The activities of the Commission will focus on three areas: developing a national mental health strategy; sharing knowledge and best practices for the benefit of Canadians from coast to coast; and undertaking public awareness and education in order to combat the hurtful stigma associated with mental illness.

The Board of Directors who sit on the Commission is chaired by the Honourable Michael Kirby and is made up of 11 non-government directors and six government-appointed directors. Nearly 500 applications were received (from all across Canada) for the non-government positions on the Board. The composition of the Board is diverse, as it represents those who are involved with mental health issues: three members of the Board live with a mental illness, two represent Canada’s Aboriginal people, and others are family caregivers, peer support workers and service providers at the community level, in hospitals and in private clinical practice.

The unique composition of the Board will provide the Board with significant insight and compassion into how our country can best respond to this national challenge, which affects so many. The group will also lead a national campaign to remove the stigma associated with mental illness.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a huge step forward in addressing a serious national health problem and to support those who bravely battle it each day.
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