The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) is mobilizing youth across the country to confront mental health stigma head-on. A growing number of young champions of change are set to make a significant impact in the fight against a serious problem that threatens the wellness of so many young Canadians.

MHCC HEADSTRONG is giving Canadian youth the encouragement, knowledge, and tools they need to lead this fight. This national youth anti-stigma campaign was created by Opening Minds, the MHCC’s anti-stigma initiative. It was launched at a national summit in Ottawa in November 2014, where it brought together youth from across the country who are committed to — and excited about — creating positive change.

Why focus on stigma?

The stigma that often surrounds mental health problems and mental illnesses is keeping many people from seeking the help they need when they need it most. In fact, most people living with a mental illness say that the stigma they experience is often worse than the illness itself.

Young people feel the impacts of stigma more than any other group in Canada.

We know that the first symptoms of mental health problems and mental illnesses are most often experienced in the teenage years. Our research shows that nearly 60% of young people (under age 25) with a mental illness say they have experienced the impact of stigma. It is clear that the mental health of Canadian youth must become a priority for the entire country.

MHCC HEADSTRONG 2014-15 Final Report

Through HEADSTRONG, the MHCC acted as a coordinating agent, bringing together community organizations and schools:

  • More than 4,400 youth became committed to creating positive change
  • 19 regional coordinators were established
  • 3 provincial events and 25 regional summits were hosted
  • Countless more students and school-based activities were inspired

Based on surveys conducted before and after each summit, results show a positive change in students’ attitudes, beliefs and levels of social acceptance toward people living with a mental illness. Before attending a summit, less than half of students responded with non-stigmatizing answers about incorrect stereotypes. Following the summits, that number grew to two-thirds of participants who knew, for example, that recovery from mental illness is possible.

Read more about the success of MHCC HEADSTRONG and future direction in the MHCC’s HEADSTRONG Youth Anti-Stigma Initiative 2014-15 Final Report

Watch the MHCC HEADSTRONG video  /  Watch the First Nations, Métis and Rural HEADSTRONG Summit video

"So many adults tell us that they first started to experience mental health problems in their youth. Therefore it is so important to attack stigma early on. Like any other health problem, the earlier something is identified the better the outcome is bound to be.”
- Louise Bradley, MHCC President and CEO