Mental Illness Awareness Week


Senator Statement Senator Jane Cordy October 7th, 2014

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I was privileged to attend the kickoff breakfast of Mental Illness Awareness Week this morning. This week is set aside each year to raise awareness and decrease stigmas of mental illness. At the breakfast, those who were nominated by the Canadian Alliance of Mental Illness and Mental Health, also known as CAMIMH, to be this year's "Faces of Mental Illness" shared their stories. Their stories are diverse and unique and highlight that mental illness certainly does indeed have many faces.

Honourable senators, I would like to share their stories and perhaps it will give a better sense of the challenges faced by those with mental illness, and also the courage and determination that these individuals have shown.

Aidan Scott is a survivor of childhood abuse. He has been diagnosed with anorexia, post-traumatic stress disorder and dissociative identity disorder. Aidan has made it his mission to reduce stigma and expand accessibility to professional care. He has launched Speak Box, a first of its kind company developing digital mental health treatment services paired with inclusion of peer support programs.

Jack Saddleback is a Cree two-spirit transgender man. As a child, Jack struggled with constant bullying, which resulted in severe depression and a suicide attempt at the age of 15. Jack is now a member of the Mental Health Commission of Canada's Youth Council. He helped create Safe Space, which creates gender-neutral First Nations sweat and pipe ceremonies.

Kathleen Dugas works at the Institute universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal. She was diagnosed as Type II bipolar in 2011. Prior to receiving a diagnosis, she had been living with the illness without help or medication for 25 years. Kathleen is a fighter and refuses to be crushed by the label of "mental illness." Lindsay Hill was a successful Bay Street litigator when suddenly struck with severe mental illness. She has been instrumental in developing the Crisis Link program with the Toronto Transit Commission Distress Centres and Bell Canada. She has recently joined the board of the distress centres and regularly speaks about her experiences with mental illness.

Mark Henick has suffered from depression, anxiety and bullying, which led to a suicide attempt as a teen. After being discouraged from speaking with his peers about his experiences, Mark instead turned to writing about his experiences in the local newspaper. This led to many people sharing their own stories. Mark is now a mental health counsellor and has served as the youngest board president of the Canadian Mental Health Association. He also delivered a wildly successful TEDxToronto talk on his experience with suicide.

Honourable senators, we have made great strides in the field of mental health and mental illness since our Senate report on mental health, mental illness and addictions, Out of the Shadows at Last. Let's all continue to be advocates for continued investment in the Mental Health Commission, which is doing great work. Their mandate should certainly be extended as the commission acts as a catalyst for change and improvement.

Honourable senators, I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to this year's "Faces of Mental Illness." The courage to share their stories with Canadians is creating positive change in Canada.