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Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Published on 4 October 2017
Hansard and Statements by Senator Jane Cordy

Hon. Jane Cordy:

Honourable senators, this week is Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada. From October 1 to 7, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, along with its partner organizations, promote mental health education to help open the eyes of Canadians to the reality of mental illness and the pervasiveness of mental illness in society.

This year we are celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Mental Illness Awareness Week. The annual national public education campaign was established in 1992 by the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and is now coordinated by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health in cooperation with all its member organizations and supporters across Canada.

Honourable senators, in 2010, the Mental Health Commission of Canada commissioned a study to get a better idea of the number of people living with mental health problems and illnesses in Canada and the associated costs. One in five people in Canada experiences poor mental health. That is over 6.7 million Canadians. The study also found that mental health problems and illnesses can occur early in people’s lives. More than 28 per cent of people aged 20 to 29 experience a mental illness in a given year. By the time people reach 40 years of age, one in two people in Canada will have had or have poor mental health in their lifetime. These are significant numbers and they have a significant impact on our economy and, of course, on Canadians and their families.

I have spoken many times in this chamber about the excellent report the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee released, Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada. Under the leadership of the committee chair, former senator Michael Kirby, this study was a collaborative effort by all members of the committee. At that time, we travelled extensively across Canada from coast to coast to coast to ensure we gave Canadians from all walks of life the opportunity to participate. The result was an in-depth look at the state of mental health and mental illness policies in Canada and the issues facing those Canadians living with mental health issues.

It is hard to believe that report was released over 10 years ago. Many strides have been taken, but much remains to be done to tackle the stigma that comes with mental illness. After more than 10 years, it may be time for the Senate to revisit this report to see what progress has been made and how the mental health landscape has changed since the report was released.

As the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health states:

A strong societal stigmatization of mental illness persists, forcing individuals into the shadows to suffer alone in silence. Unfortunately, many Canadians with mental illness will not seek the help they need and society continues to remain unaware of the significant burden mental illness places on us all.

Honourable senators, the goal of this week is to increase awareness and decrease stigmatization of mental illness. The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness campaign this week includes the sharing of hundreds of personal stories from individuals living with mental illness. I encourage you to join me in spreading the word on your Instagram, Twitter, website and Facebook, celebrating Mental Illness Awareness Week using the hashtag #MIAW17. The only way to erase stigma around mental illness is to talk about mental health. So let’s talk, and together we can make a difference.