The Mental Illness Awareness Week blog, sharing stories of recovery, personal experiences, and mental health/mental illness news.


Member Blog: Canadian Psychiatric Association

As we approach the holiday season, it’s fitting to reflect on the year that was 2013. It was a year of changes and challenges that the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) met head on, alone and with our partners.

Our advocacy efforts have been strengthened since we welcomed Glenn Brimacombe as the Association’s new Chief Executive Officer in August.

Founded in 1951, the CPA is the national voice for Canada’s psychiatrists. The Association is a well-respected and active medical organization committed to serving the needs of its members and furthering the overall health of the population. It is the leading authority on psychiatric matters in Canada.

On a national level, the CPA has called for national mental health standards for our health system and dedicated, equitable funding for mental health. It also has been a leader in the call for action to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. CPA represents the profession of psychiatry to governments, the public, universities, medical associations, licensing and certifying bodies, and other healthcare organizations.

Some of our “hot files” in 2013 included off-label prescribing, mental illness among Canadian Forces members and veterans, suicide prevention, and Bill C-14, the Not Criminally Responsible Reform Act (formerly known as Bill C-54).

We often work in collaboration with others to advance the mental health agenda. To this end, the CPA is proud to be a founding member of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH), which brings together diverse organizations that share a common vision of a country where Canadians’ mental health is a priority and those with a mental illness are treated with respect, provided with support, and can access care.

Last year, the CPA and other partner mental health organizations, supported the passage of Bill C-300, which requires the government to establish a federal framework for suicide prevention. Now the Public Health Agency of Canada is consulting with stakeholders nationwide, including the CPA, on what the framework should include. 

The CPA is also part of a National Collaborative on Suicide Prevention, along with the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, tasked with building suicide prevention capacity, promoting knowledge exchange and informing public policy.

Collaboration has also helped us amplify our voice on Bill C-54, now Bill C-14. We are part of a Coalition made up of 12 mental health organizations, which continues to voice our concerns about the Bill.

This past year, the CPA formed a Military and Veterans section, bringing together researchers and clinicians working with the military, veterans and their families to collaborate on and foster evidence-based care and research.

Combating stigma and discrimination is also an important aspect of advocacy and the CPA continues to support Mental Illness Awareness Week. The week was founded by the CPA and is now administered through CAMIMH.

The CPA promotes research and continuing education among its members by establishing and maintaining standards of practice and facilitating maintenance of competence in the practice of general and specialized psychiatry. It is working with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, MHCC and the College of Family Physicians of Canada to identify the mental health core competencies for family doctors and specialists.

We expect 2014 to be just as eventful as we move forward together to advance the mental health agenda in Canada. Happy holidays to all.


Face-to-Face with Arthur Gallant

I’m a firm believer that everybody who lives on this planet has a mission; they have a calling. I am no different. I’ll never forget my grandmother sitting down with me when I was 4 years old and saying “Arthur, when you grow up you’re going to be somebody someday.” For a long time growing up I spent a lot of time wondering what she could have possibly meant by that. I summoned other family members and friends too. What could have my grandmother possibly seen in me as a 4-year old that made her think I was so special? What made her so confident that I would grow up to do something so positive with my life?

My life has no doubt had its unique challenges; I’ve lived through a journey that even the most talented of writers couldn’t come up with such a story. It all started when I was born to an intellectually disabled mother, my father left before I was born, and my aging grandmother decided to support my mom in raising me. When I was 5, my grandmother took sick and later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and my mother was forced to care for me full-time or should I say I was forced to care for her?

With this massive responsibility stowed upon me I didn’t feel like other kids my age. I didn't know a childhood of not having to worry about money or whether my mom’s taxes were filed on time. The responsibility began to take its toll on me and I remember being as young as 8 years old, feeling so anxious and depressed that I began to make myself vomit just to avoid going to school.

When I was 9 years old Children’s Aid Society took custody of me and a judge awarded Crown Wardship to CAS, which meant they became my legal guardian. Throughout those next few years my symptoms continued and I soon became confused as to why I was feeling like that. Why didn’t I want to get out of bed in the morning? Why was I wanting to cry yet not knowing why? Why did I think I was on the verge of being kidnapped every time I locked eyes with somebody on the subway?

After I got my diagnosis of depression and anxiety disorder I had a lot of energy. Even as a teenager I was very vocal as to the care and treatment I was receiving and didn’t always think my healthcare team and caregivers knew best. Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children & Youth helped me to advocate for my rights in CAS but also in regards to my mental health treatment. That led to me sitting on the first of many advisory panels for their office.

As time passed by, other organizations and branches of government began to take notice. Executives of agencies I was a client of were asking for my advice and consulting me as to potential changes in policies and practices.

I had always wanted to be a journalist; so I could tell the stories of others. I never imagined that I’d be sharing my own in a very public way. I do a lot of talking, advising, and consulting. I even spark the occasional debate as to direction this country is going when it comes to the treatment of those with mental illness.

That is how I’m moving from awareness to action!


Face-to-Face with Marli Brown

My symptoms started very young, and first presented as anxiety.  As a toddler, if someone came into our house that I didn't know, I would curl up under my mom's chair and fall asleep.  I lost my hair going into Kindergarten, then as a school age student, experiencing panic attacks, which led to hyperventilation, which led to seizures, which led to lots of ambulance rides.  My first conscious thought of suicide was at the age of 8 - I thought everyone's brain worked like mine; worrying about what would happen if the school bus rolled over, how would I get out?  Worrying about my dad while he would wash the combine windows, visualizing him falling and what would I do?  Worrying about everything, all the time, looking to the stars for hope that someone/thing would end my pain.

In high school, I started with self-harming behaviours to cope.  Binge drinking, banging my head against walls, cutting - all while maintaining honour roll marks, being on extracurricular activities, and planning my post secondary education.  I worked very hard to hide the level of psychological pain that had become "normal" for me, and searched for my value in achievement.

The start of university brought a series of events - rural kid graduating from a class of 11 going to live in a large city, the university soon following with a staffing strike, a family cancer scare, and a massive loss from a vehicle accident.  Over a short amount of time, I became home bound; I became convinced that others could see how horrible of a person I was and I dreamed/planned/lived every moment on how I could die.  Soon after I experienced my first psychotic episode with a large antlike creature standing behind my couch telling me I had to die as I was so horrendous, so worthless, that I was taking my loved ones down with me.  The only way to save them was to kill myself.  Soon after, I had my first psychiatric hospitalization.

I struggled for over 10 years in the system, with revolving door admissions, many different medications, side effects, treatment plans, gathering new psychiatric diagnosis as I encountered different doctors on my journey.  I continued to try to find who I was, attending university classes, working 4 part time jobs when I could work, homebound during the times when I couldn't. I really thought that if I could just work harder I would just get into life.  Somehow, no matter how hard I worked, it just didn't work.

I would have longer periods of time of stability, although never being able to dump the never ending feeling of absolute worthlessness.  I learned coping strategies to do things anyway, and then would deal with the pain behind closed doors.  My husband and I (who I started dating at the age of 17), had to learn to navigate the changes within the relationship - sometimes he was the one who had to "watch" me to keep me alive, while other times we would be equal partners in life.

After much thought and discussion after a long period of stability, we decided to get married and have children after being together for 10 years.  Our first child was born after using fertility medication, and I experienced mild post-partum depression.  I worked very closely with my case manager to do everything I had to ensure attachment; all was well with work as I discovered social services and found I very much enjoyed community volunteering (and a strange knack for constitution and bylaws - always a nerd at heart!).  A few years passed and we decided to try for another baby.

We became pregnant with our first daughter, but that pregnancy was wrought with difficulties from the start.  We found out mid-pregnancy that she had triploidy (which the medical community considers "not compatible with life").  She was born still on April 18, 2007.  That was by far the most difficult process for my husband and myself.  I thought I had grieved as I had a little cry after she was born; little did I know the depths of pain that I had yet to encounter.

We got pregnant again soon after, miscarried, then pregnant again with our second daughter.  She was born April 10, 2008.  Eight days later, we signified the first anniversary loss of the stillbirth.  6 weeks later, I was in the midst of the most painful post partum depression episode, that lead into psychosis soon after.  I had the supplies I needed to end my life, the plan on where I was going to do it, just needed a safe place to put my daughter.  She had colic, and wouldn't stop crying so I couldn't leave her.  I drove for seemingly hours to get her to stop, she didn't, and fate lead me to my case manager at the time and I ended up in the ER.

I was in the hospital for 10 months over that first year.  Tried ECT, medications, different treatment plans; all seemed to lead nowhere.  I became profoundly broken - unresolved grief, mixed with pre-existing mental illness, mixed with post partum issues compounded to the point where I would sometimes be catatonic, writing codes on my hospital room walls, and seeing a man in a black coat that would follow me around the ward.  I could tell you the respiration rates of the patient 2 doors down as my senses were on fire.

The local psychologist was consulted - I had seen her on the ward with her dog (who attended as a therapy dog), and given my high love of animals, she intrigued me off the start.  As we met, she spent time developing trust.  She asked me about me, not just about the symptoms.  As the assessment ended and the recommendations evolved, we met regularly for therapy.  Due to the high level of trust I had developed, more "roots" of my pain were able to be shared, and for the first time in my life, I was able to start to process the trauma I experienced while being sexually abused as a young child.  The pain was exquisite, and I would often have to have the garbage can close by as nausea was overwhelming.  I would be angry at her, feeling like I could never go back - but then realized that the anger was not at her, but at the pain of the situation.  I knew that I had hit the end - either keep going back to slice this pain and figure my way through it, or die.  It was that complicated and yet that simple.

I was able to share the guilt I felt at losing our daughter, the guilt I felt of being a crappy human being, share my shameful inner core of knowing that I was a palliative psychiatric case.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I started finding my way again back into life.  The staff on that unit were amazing through that year, with high levels of collaboration, people thinking outside the box (I would have day passes to attend university class in the midst of this mess, as that was a sanctuary for me), and they were my cheerleaders as my husband would bring our children to visit daily so we could do the attachment work that needed to be done.  I was able to graduate with my social work degree in 2011, and continue to contribute back to my community through volunteering in any way I can.

As this campaign has rolled out, I have been asked if I'm cured.  Not even close....  I still experience mental illness symptoms - in particular dissociation, psychosis, and mood changes when stressors get too high.  The difference now is that I have a team (in particular the psychologist) who I trust 10000%, and I have worked very hard to identify symptoms as they first come up so we can deal with them right away.  I held onto the thought for many years that if I could just get my head wrapped around my symptoms, then they would go away.  I know now that insight does not stop symptoms from occurring, but rather allows me to access support much more quickly, leading to a shorter time of illness.  I accept the fact that my brain works differently than other people, and am acutely aware when I can feel things change in the way I think or perceive things.  I realize that I can compound that change with destructive thinking patterns and take it deeper into illness, but the initial change can be connected to changes in stress, sleep, or just plain random.  It is my job on the team to let others know when that initial change is happening, so the care plan can kick in to ensure it doesn't get exponentially worse.

Most recently, I had our third daughter.  My risk of PPD was profound.  It did come, but due to the team preparation and response it was a tiny little blip on the radar.  I was able to have the experience of feeling my newborn baby in my mama heart immediately after birth for the first time.  I am so thankful; the hours they have put into my care have not been easy, but the idea of recovery as I envision it is now in my life.  Recovery for me is not the absence of symptoms, but living a full life in the midst of managing them.  I was the walking dead for so many years, putting on a mask of expectations that I thought society should see.  By removing the mask, inviting team members to help me, I am working everyday to see through my differently wired brain.  Do I think I'm fabulous?  No, far from it - I actually think that part of my brain just doesn't work.  Do I struggle through that feeling to do things anyway?  Yes - and for that, I am forever grateful.


Face-to-Face with Bernard Saulnier

Help.  This is what From Awareness to Action means to me. Action contributes to my recovery. I am becoming aware of the things I need to improve. I hope to grow in my move toward the best in recovery and demonstrate that it can be done. This is a sometimes long and winding road, with ups and downs, but it's important for me to persevere. I also want people to be aware that they are often surrounded by people who are suffering. I hope to help make the stigmas surrounding mental illness disappear. Moving From Awareness to Action contributes to my recovery; action is empowerment, power over my life. Yes, I have a mental illness, but this is the start of the great adventure of recovery, civic action, rights and duties. Doing my best contributes to this empowerment. Action is important. It's often said that when we get busy, we get better. Action, discussion with peers, leads one to see that recovery is possible. Holding out a helping hand—that's what I think needs to be done. Turning to each other, letting go of our own will. The adventure of recovery, to me, also means making the right choices in all aspects of my life. Developing a spiritual life, that too is important in recovery, trying to be aware that there is something greater that can help me. Recovery also helps me see my strengths and weaknesses, and accept them, too.

All this is a great adventure where I hope to find a little serenity and humility. I want to try to be honest, an honest citizen, that's what counts. I've been in recovery for twenty years and life is forever bringing me wonderful surprises. I still suffer, but this suffering is not the same as it was. I try to grow with it, to make it a life lesson. We also have to talk about mental illness, and not be afraid of asking for help to see clearly, instead of having eyes bloodshot from tears of pain. Recovery is a grand adventure. I've tried to believe in it. I am reaping the benefits and I thank you for being a part of it.


Member Blog: The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP)

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP) was founded and incorporated in 1985 by a group of professionals who saw the need to provide information and resources to communities to reduce the suicide rate and minimize the harmful consequences of suicidal behaviour.

CASP’s Board of Directors with help from other organizations and individuals   has worked hard to influence the implementation of a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention in Canada for over 25 years.  One of its first steps was to prepare the CASP Blueprint for a National Suicide Prevention Strategy released in 2007 to all government levels and revised with a second Edition published in 2009. Many regions and countries have used the Blueprint to create their own strategies. Canada remains one of the few industrialized countries that has not implemented a suicide prevention strategy.

With patience and persistence CASP has continued to find ways of influencing change on a National level through presentations at Parliamentary Committees, informing the development of the strategy to implement and monitor the progress of Bill C300, a bill passed by Parliament in February, 2013 to create a National Suicide Prevention Framework.

In the last two years, CASP has partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to create The National Collaborative for Suicide Prevention. The collective is comprised of social and health-based national organizations invested in the promotion of mental health and well-being, the prevention of mental illness and in building capacity to reduce the risk of suicide and bolster resilience.  Suicide prevention efforts in Canada have been hampered by fragmentation. This newly formed body contributes to the reduction of suicide risk and all the associated impacts through collective action, information sharing and working cooperatively to build on one another’s efforts and initiatives. It will include representation from survivors of suicide loss, and suicide attempt survivors who have a vested interest in and commitment to preventing suicides and promoting hope and resiliency for all Canadians.

Our ongoing association with CAMIMH is vital.  We hope CAMIMH will be an important contributor as its focus is on promoting the good mental health of all Canadians and access to equitable service to individuals with lived experience of mental illness and their families.

We hope that working together as members of the National Collaborative for Suicide Prevention will reduce numbers of suicides and suicide attempts.  Our overall aim is to increase the capacity for effective suicide prevention, intervention and postvention by connecting people, ideas, and resources on a pan-Canadian level and therefore:

  • Enhance capacity building for suicide prevention in Canada;
  • Build awareness of suicide as a social and public health problem;
  •  Integrate suicide prevention and information in the work of each of our organizations;
  • Promote knowledge exchange and mobilization on suicide prevention across Canada;
  •  Promote strategies and leading practices to reduce the incidence and prevalence of suicidal behaviors;
  • Support and enhance efforts at the local, provincial, territorial, and national level to prevent suicides; and
  • Promote awareness of the benefits of postvention and supports for those bereaved by suicide.

CASP continues to focus on knowledge exchange and has recently published two valuable resources to assist families and workplaces to engage in life promotion and life saving conversations. Hope and Resiliency at Home and Hope and Resiliency at Work contain useful information about ways Canadians can enhance their mental well being and those of others thereby promoting a suicide safer community. These resources can be found on our website at

CASP is also hosting its Annual Conference in Winnipeg on October 1 and 2, 2013. As a continuation of the Hope and Resiliency at Work and Home and life promotion theme, the conference will focus on ‘Creating New Pathways: Trauma Informed Approaches to Suicide Prevention’.   This event is also a collaborative initiative, occurring in tandem with the annual conference of the Native Mental Health Association whose annual gathering immediately precedes our own and will focus also on trauma, from an indigenous perspective.   

For more information and to register, visit


Member blog: Canadian Association of Social Workers

The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) was founded in 1926 to monitor employment conditions and to establish standards of practice within the profession. CASW has since evolved into a national voice focussed on strengthening the profession and advancing issues of social justice.

CASW is active in the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), providing leadership within the IFSW Executive as well as within the North American Region. The expertise of CASW in social policy, its concern for social justice and its continued role in social advocacy is recognized and called upon by IFSW.

On a national level, CASW has adopted a pro-active approach to issues pertinent to social policy/social work. It produces and distributes timely information for its members, and special projects are initiated and sponsored. Further to this, CASW is aligned with national and international coalitions that advance its mandate.

To this end, CASW is extremely proud of its longstanding association with CAMIMH as we share the vision of a country where all Canadians enjoy good mental health and that those with a lived experience of mental illness, their families and care providers have access to the care, support and respect to which they are entitled and in parity with other health conditions.
Work in the mental health field requires an ability to work collaboratively and is strengthened by a systems perspective.  As these knowledge and skill areas are emphasized in social work education, social workers are well positioned to play a significant role as Canada strives to achieve mental health goals in the twenty-first century.

Social work goes beyond the medical model’s focus on individual diagnosis to identify and address social inequities and structural issues.  A distinguishing characteristic of social work practice is the dual focus of the profession.  Social workers have, simultaneously, ethical responsibilities to address both private troubles and public issues.

In this regard, CASW’s primary focus in the past two years has been to draw attention to the benefit of making the Canadian Social Transfer (CST) accountable to Canadians. The CST is the primary source of federal funding in Canada that supports provincial and territorial social programs.  It is the contention of CASW that accountable and equitable investments in the social determinants of health (SDOH) will lower the overall cost of health care delivery and support positive mental health for all Canadians.

The SDOH encompass a broad range of social factors, including socio-economic status, early childhood education, and access to adequate housing, to name a few.  Moreover, income inequality is highly associated with the health of a nation.  Arguably, accountability of CST funding has the potential to have greater implications for the overall health and well-being of Canadians that the Canadian Health Transfer that has dominated all provincial and national discussions to this point.

With most provinces and territories adopting poverty reduction plans, it has become clear that Canada requires a national plan. The Government of Canada’s participation in a poverty reduction plan is essential given the billions transferred via the CST each year in support of the delivery of social and health services.
A national strategy would ensure that all Canadians, regardless of their age or where they live, would have equitable access to programs and services to support living with dignity and respect.

With the rules governing Canada’s equalization program and affordable housing agreements set to expire in 2014, the provincial, territorial and federal governments have opportunity to proactively address the growing income inequity gap in Canada.

The time has come for the provincial, territorial and federal governments to develop Principles of Accountability for investments in the social determinants health from the Canada Social Transfer.
It’s time to Defend our Social Programs for a Stronger Canada.

Visit to learn more.


Member Blog: Canadian Nurses Association

Providing timely and equitable access to high-quality health care by reducing wait times for assessment and treatment is a top priority for health-care providers, advocates, policy-makers and indeed, for Canadians in general. However, health-care priorities need to include a focus on mental health.

Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression affect one in five Canadians. Psychological factors associated with these and other mental health conditions can affect how well people maintain their health and manage comorbidities. Improving access to the range of biological, psychological and social assessments, screening and interventions required to meet the needs of persons experiencing mental health problems and illnesses and their families is critical.

Registered nurses (RN) working in all practice settings and along every point across the continuum care for people with varying degrees of mental health and illness every day:

·         Public health and primary care nurses assess and screen new mothers for post-partum depression.
·         Nurses working in emergency departments respond to patients experiencing acute psychotic episodes.
·         Primary care nurses screen for and provide education around substance use and abuse.
·         Street health nurses care for people who may be homeless and/or engaging in high-risk behaviours, in part because of an unmanaged mental illness.
·         School nurses assess children and youth for the presence of eating disorders, bullying and abuse.
·         Critical care nurses care for families experiencing grief, loss and crisis.
·         Medical/surgical nurses care for patients experiencing acute delirium, depression and anxiety.
·         Psychiatric/mental health nurses often care for individuals who are at risk for self-harm or experiencing suicidal ideation.
  • Nurses working in First Nation communities deal with intergenerational effects of trauma and abuse.
As holistic practitioners and care providers, we utilize our knowledge, expertise and therapeutic interactions to care for the mental health and well-being of individuals, communities and populations. Our numbers, our distribution and our role as knowledge professionals means that we are well-positioned to provide the leadership and solutions necessary to drive improvements in mental health service delivery.

Nurses have extensive clinical expertise and have demonstrated leadership in providing mental health services to Canadians, including health promotion, illness prevention, early detection, diagnosis, intervention, crisis management, rehabilitation and (especially) recovery. Because nurses can often identify the early signs of mental illness, and the life conditions that contribute to it, they are well-positioned to offer early interventions that can mitigate a deteriorating personal situation. Ideally, the contributions of nurses and other health-care providers are most effective when offered through interprofessional collaborative approaches. In this updated position statement, CNA promotes the formal inclusion and involvement of families, caregivers, consumers and consumer groups in the planning, delivery and evaluation of mental health services, including the provision of care and self-management.

CNA, in a 2011 brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, told the committee that targeted improvements in community health and mental health care across the continuum can be realized through the implementation of the recommendations outlined in the Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC) mental health strategy for Canada. This strategy will advance a comprehensive population-based approach to mental health — one that emphasizes broad community-based services and recovery-based approaches and acknowledges the pivotal role of consumers and front-line providers in implementing system change. One of the most promising aspects of this strategy is that it emphasizes fostering good mental health for all Canadians, not just treating problems and illnesses when they arise. CNA is keenly aware that resources to support knowledge translation and change management opportunities will be necessary to support the implementation of the MHCC’s recommendations.

The principles of primary health care (PHC), as outlined in the World Health Organization’s 1978 Alma Ata declaration, are foundational for optimizing the health of all populations and improving the performance of health systems: (1) accessibility; (2)active public participation; (3) health promotion and chronic disease prevention and management; (4) the use of appropriate technology and innovation (including knowledge, skills and information); and (5) intersectoral cooperation and collaboration. In celebrating 35 years since the signing of this declaration, and to portray the relationships among PHC’s values, principles and concepts, CNA has developed the following conceptual model.

PHC is about far more than delivering health-care services. It’s about creating the conditions that support health and wellness. For more information, see our Conceptual Model: Primary Health Care page and position statement on PHC.

Utilizing its voice, leverage and actions, CNA continues to advocate for a system that supports the mental health and wellness of all people living in Canada and those on the journey toward recovery, and collaborates with national and jurisdictional partners in support of this agenda. CNA is committed to working with other health-care professionals and organizations to ensure public policy and practice best meets the mental health needs of Canadians.

CNA is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada. A federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing nearly 150,000 registered nurses, CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.


Member Blog: Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) Canada

Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) Réadaptation Psychosociale (RPS) Canada promotes psychosocial rehabilitation principles and the growth of psychosocial rehabilitation practices and programs in Canada. As such, PSR/RPS Canada is a leader in the transformation of mental health services in this country.  
PSR/RPS Canada is a young organization, being formed in 2001 as the result of an amicable split from the parent organization, the International Association of Psychosocial Rehabilitation Services (IAPSRS).
PSR/RPS Canada also has Chapters in BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia. It is also developing a good relationship with AQRP in Quebec.
PSR/RPS Canada members include practitioners, people with lived experience, their families and administrators, policy makers, researchers and educators.

What are PSR Principles?

Psychosocial rehabilitation (also termed psychiatric rehabilitation or PSR) promotes personal recovery, successful community integration and satisfactory quality of life for persons who have a mental illness or mental health concern.  Psychosocial rehabilitation services and supports are collaborative, person directed, and individualized, and an essential element of the human services spectrum.  They focus on helping individuals develop skills and access resources needed to increase their capacity to be successful and satisfied in the living, working, learning and social environments of their choice and include a wide continuum of services and supports. 

What are PSR Practices?

Psychosocial rehabilitation (PSR) approaches include programs, services and practices with well documented effectiveness in facilitating the recovery of persons living with serious mental illness. PSR approaches focus on programs and practices involving   the major life domains of employment, education, leisure, wellness, housing, family and peer support.
Specific examples of approaches include supported employment, supported education, supported housing, illness management and recovery, integrated approaches for concurrent disorders, and ACT Teams. PSR approaches are enhanced in their effectiveness by other treatment approaches and practices, including cognitive retraining, cognitive behaviour therapies and motivational interviewing.
Because of their effectiveness and recovery orientation, PSR approaches are important not only to individuals and their families but also to strategies and initiatives to transform mental health and programs and services in the United States and Canada. ACT Teams, for example when operated with fidelity reliably reduce the emergency psychiatric hospitalization rate in their service areas.
Supported housing and supported employment also significantly reduce emergency psychiatric hospitalization. Accordingly, these and other PSR approaches are important tools for recovery as well as in the transformation to effective, recovery oriented mental health systems and services in Canada which is a major goal of the Mental Health Strategy.

PSR Competencies and Education:

To facilitate the adoption of PSR approaches, it is important that practitioner competencies for PSR and recovery oriented approaches be identifies and become the basis for practitioner education and professional development programs. PSR/RPS Canada is currently doing this work to define   PSR competencies as well as promoting and providing PSR education and professional development.
There are currently three college programs in PSR in Canada, offered by Humber College, Toronto, Mohawk College, Hamilton and Douglas College in New Westminster.


Members have access to two excellent journals: Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal and the Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health.


Defeat Depression

 Defeat Depression

National Mental Health Awareness, Anti-Stigma and Fundraising Campaign

 Event Locations Map 2013

The Defeat Depression Pan-Canadian Mental Health campaign is the only national multi-organizational, family based mental health campaign consisting of walks, runs, rides and other physical and social activities. These events are held in cities and towns across Canada and raise awareness of depression and other mood disorders and reduces stigma.

The Defeat Depression Mental Health Campaign involves dozens of mental health organizations throughout the country. The campaign saw its first events in May of 2012 when 23 cities and towns and thousands of Canadians from coast to coast took part in inaugural events.
Families, mental health organizations, community groups, caring companies and employees as well as volunteers are organizing local walks, runs, rides and other events to raise awareness about depression and other mood disorders and to help reduce the stigma that, for far too long, has cast negative perceptions on mental illness.

Many of these community organizations are struggling to try to keep up with the increased demand for services. This campaign raises funds to assist these non-profit organizations deliver services and supports. The funds raised at these events go to the community mental health organizations that provide critical support and services which greatly help improve the lives of Canadians experiencing depression and other mood disorders.


Why People Act!

Depression impacts virtually every Canadian family.  20% (1 in 5) Canadians will experience a mental illness or problem. Four to five percent (4-5%) of Canadians are depressed at any one point in time, (roughly 1.5 million). There is no one specific cause of depression. It can be triggered by traumatic events, a biochemical imbalance or through experiencing a particularly negative experiences or outlook on life. A family history of the illness can also position you to being more prone to depression than others. Of those who develop depression/anxiety, only about 20% will receive adequate treatment. Astonishingly, 97% of persons reporting depression/anxiety also report that their work, home life and relationships have suffered as a result of their illnesses or due to illness within their family.  Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy and poor concentration. Physical activity such as walking, running and social interactions have a positive effect on our mental health and helps tackle depression. These events across Canada are the perfect way for family, friends, co-workers and persons who are affected by depression to all come out and support positive mental health! Everywhere, people Move for Mental Health

Communities Want To Participate

For far too long mental health issues were kept behind closed doors instead of being discussed. Through the Defeat Depression campaign, Canadians now have a campaign that offers an effective tool to do something together that has an immediate and positive effect on their family, friends and neighbours.

Today, especially among our youth, people are eager to take part in activities that tackles mental illness and fights stigma. The Defeat Depression campaign provides a wonderful way for everyone to take a stand against stigma while supporting local mental health services and supports. The campaign has more than doubled in one 1 short year and will continue to dramatically grow because it delivers what families and communities want.

The Defeat Depression campaign is about changing attitudes, perceptions, awareness and actions.  Please join the campaign and take a stand against depression. Contact


Member Blog: The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association

The Right People at the Right Time in the Right Place
The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) envisions “a country where all Canadians enjoy good mental health. Canadians with a lived experience of mental illness, their families and care providers must have access to the care, support and respect to which they are entitled and in parity with other health conditions.” Having the right people at the right time at the right place with the right expertise to meet Canadians in their time of need is critical. This vision resonates particularly strongly with us at the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA). Like CAMIMH, we live, work, plan, and dream the principle of “health promotion and the treatment of mental illnesses (being) timely, continuous, inter-disciplinary, culturally appropriate, and integrated across the full life cycle and the continuum of care (i.e. physical and mental health; social supports and tertiary care to home/community care)” (

Who are We?
The Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA) is the national, bilingual home to approximately 5000 mental health professionals in all provinces and territories. We have a 48-year history of advocating for the role of psychotherapy and counselling in increasing and supporting the mental health, wellness, and happiness of the Canadian people. CCPA supports cultural diversity and the importance of foreign-trained healthcare professionals in mental health. We actively encourage and support the provision of services independently and in collaboration with other mental health professionals using a team approach based on client need.
 Our members are experts and specialists in numerous mental health areas related to both medical and DSM diagnoses and to traumatic life events and transitions (e.g., ADHD, PTSD, OCD, brain trauma, grief, anxiety, eating disorders, stress, depression, suicidality, anger, infertility, addiction, work-life balance, relationships) and they use a variety of titles in their daily work including counsellor, nurse, psychologist, social worker, professor, counselling therapist, psychotherapist, clinical counsellor, school counsellor, career counsellor, and many many more.
Counsellors and psychotherapists in our Association work in a variety of settings including rehabilitation centres, correctional services and industry, providing a diversity of services to clients across the lifespan including children, teens, adults, couples, families, and groups in a variety of settings. A large number of our members work in schools, colleges and universities. Others work for non-profit agencies and in private practice. Many members work in the employment sector and in employment assistance programs. Still others work in program development, counselling administration and government. 

What is Counselling and How Does it Fit in the Continuum of Care?
The continuum of care requires professional attention to timeliness, interdisciplinary cooperation, integration, and continuity of care based on elements that include the social, cultural, and emotional landscape and needs of the individual or group seeking assistance. The historic distinction between counselling and psychotherapy (1960s-1990s) has diminished in the 21st century as therapeutic interventions, standards of practice and training requirements have evolved; most mental health practitioners now view their work on a continuum and many of our CCPA members use the terms counselling and psychotherapy interchangeably. Our psychotherapists and certified counsellors hold a shared vision, scope, and standard of practice based on aligned theoretical bases, established domains of competency, current professional ethics and practice.
The nationally validated definition of counselling speaks of “a relational process based upon the ethical use of specific professional competencies to facilitate human change. Counselling addresses wellness, relationships, personal growth, career development, mental health, and psychological illness or distress. The counselling process is characterized by the application of recognized cognitive, affective, expressive, somatic, spiritual, developmental, behavioural, learning, and systemic principles.” (

Learn More Online and Join us in Nova Scotia
Our website for practitioners and persons interested in the counselling and psychotherapy profession is located at We also host a public-facing website for members of the public who are curious about the profession of counselling and psychotherapy and how it might be of assistance to them. The public-facing website is located at
CCPA also hosts both research conferences and practice-based conferences. Our next national conference is May 14 – 17, 2013 at Westin’s Nova Scotian Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. With more than 70 presenters and keynote speakers Michael Ungar, Slyvie Giasson and Martin Antony, the conference promises to deliver information related to the breadth and depth of the profession. To learn more or register for the conference, go to:


Member Blog: The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists

What does occupational therapy have to do with mental health?

When someone thinks about the treatment of mental illness, occupational therapy doesn’t often come to mind. The CanadianAssociation of Occupational Therapists is hoping to change this because there is a critical role that occupational therapists can play in helping clients live full, active and more hopeful lives empowering them to determine their goals, lead their care, and work towards recovery.

Charting a new course

For individuals with mental illness, whether it is anxiety, psychosis, addiction or a mood disorder, finding solutions to everyday challenges can be overwhelming. These challenges are compounded by lack of understanding of mental health in general, and the stigma or fear associated with the unknown.
What is perhaps equally as frustrating in mental health is the journey of recovery never follows a straight line. Treatment options are complex and often require years of finding the right balance of medication, counseling, social support and self-driven research and learning. This is where occupational therapists provide value to mental health teams and can be an important solution to the complexity of mental illness.
Occupational therapists are highly educated health professionals who focus on maximizing the potential of individuals through engagement in activities (or occupations) of daily living. In other words, occupational therapists work with clients to set goals and find ways to do all the things one needs to do and wants to do each day from going to work or school, to recreation, to taking care of oneself or others.

Occupational therapy: Solutions for daily living

One might argue that recovery from mental illness is not simply about diagnosing a chemical imbalance or atypical functioning in the brain, but identifying coping strategies and working with clients to find a path that incorporates meaningful activities, supportive social interactions and positive environments which reduce triggers.
For someone who suffers from schizophrenia, for example, and occupational therapists can work with this individual to better understand environmental triggers and coping strategies to support their engagement in work or school, participate in social activities and know their limits in stressful situations.
Occupational therapists also work with families, health care providers, and stakeholder groups to educate and raise awareness about mental illness and barriers to mental health in the home, at work and in the community to promote supportive environments for clients.


Nominations for the Champions of Mental Health Awards Accepted for 2013

We have officially opened nominations for the Champions of Mental Health Awards for 2013.  The eleventh annual Champions Awards will bring together political decision makers, business leaders, members of the national media, sponsors and other stakeholders to celebrate individuals and organizations whose outstanding contributions have advanced the mental health agenda in Canada in the past year.

Each year, we honour a group of inspiring Canadians who work diligently to raise awareness about mental health and work to end the stigma associated with mental illness.  We are truly grateful for their efforts and these awards are a way to celebrate and recognize their remarkable contributions.

Our growing Champions alumnus represents some of the best advocates for mental health in Canada and each year this multi-disciplinary network of mental health experts grows.  This impressive scope of experts provides CAMIMH with a unique position to spread the conversation about mental illness into every region across Canada. This ever broadening network not only engages more mental health experts, but also demonstrates to Canadians the value of open discussion as a means to reducing stigma.

The gala to honour the 2013 Champions of Mental Health Awards recipients will be hosted on May 6th 2013 at the Château Laurier.  The Champions of Mental Health Awards are a key component of CAMIMH’s annual awareness campaigns and are made possible through the generous support of its presenting sponsor Bell, as part of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative.  In 2012, CAMIMH received a record 40 nominations and had the difficult task of choosing only five recipients.   The 2012 Champions Awards recipients included: Retired Senator W. David Angus, Scott Chisholm, founder of the Collateral Damage Project, Dr. Trang Dao, Psychiatric Researcher, Michael Landsberg, TSN Broadcaster and the Cardinal Newman Peer Mentors.

 Mental illness is an issue that reaches everyone.  One in five Canadians will experience a mental problem or disorder in a given year.  Even more will know someone who has.  We hope that by recognizing some of the work that is being done to raise awareness, end stigma and promote access to needed services and supports will make a difference for Canada’s mental health.

 To nominate a Champion or purchase tickets, please visit for details.  Submissions will be accepted until March 1st, 2013 in several categories including private sector; public sector; research; community (individual), and; community (organization).


Member Blog: The Schizophrenia Society of Canada

The Schizophrenia Society of Canada (SSC) is a national registered charity that has been in operation since 1979. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia and psychosis through education, support programs, public policy and research. We work with 10 provincial societies to help individuals with schizophrenia and their families have a better quality of life while we search for a cure. At SSC we are committed to:
·         Raising awareness and educating the public to help reduce stigma and discrimination
·         Supporting families and individuals
·         Advocating for legislative change and improved treatment and services
·         Supporting research through the SSC Foundation and other independent efforts

Schizophrenia and psychosis are serious mental illnesses. Three percent of Canadian men and women will experience psychosis. One in one hundred will experience some form of schizophrenia. While these conditions are rare in childhood, they usually have their onset in the mid-to late teen years.

Mental illnesses are real. The heartache is real that families struggle with. But beyond the limitations of mental illness is possible. People living with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and psychosis have talents, goals and feelings just like anyone else. Yet mental illness can have a profoundly negative effect, not only in the lives of those living with it, but their families and their communities. Individuals living with mental illness and their families are often shunned, becoming the targets of social prejudice. People living with schizophrenia may also face poverty, homelessness and high risk for suicide.

In Canada mental health services are in short supply, especially recovery-oriented mental health services. The solutions are complex, not simple, because mental illnesses are complex as are all humans. As humans we are not just "biochemical." We are body (biological), mind (psychological), social (sociological), spirit (spiritual) and relational (communal). To reduce human behaviour or treatment down to one mere dimension is "reductionistic," a fatal philosophy. "Ask not what illness a person has, but rather what person the illness has." Mental health services have to be holistic, geared towards the totality of what it means to be human.
Recovery is more possible when all issues of life are addressed from a compassionate, healing perspective. Many people with enduring mental illness need the help of medication, but just as many if not more need hope, acceptance, social inclusion, a safe place to live, adequate income, help with unresolved trauma, addictions, spiritual healing, and a “relationship” with their mental health service provider or those who attempt to help. Much of what they need is not found in a medication. Love, healing and acceptance are more than medication. There are many people on medications who are not happy or leading a life of quality, but living in bondage to some of the things listed above. And yet, many people are blessed by having a medication that helps in their recovery!

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