MHCC proud to celebrate champions

albert mcleod

Albert McLeod

Patricia Lingley-Pottie

Patricia Lingley-Pottie

Vikram Patel

Vikram Patel

With spring comes the announcement of mental health advocacy awards in Canada, and this year there is much to celebrate.

“At the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), one of the things I’m most proud of is our long-term relationships with key stakeholders,” said Louise Bradley, the MHCC’s president and CEO. “To see so many of our partners and friends in the community uplifted and recognized is deeply gratifying.”

This year’s recipients of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) Champions of Mental Health Awards include several honourees with close ties to the MHCC. Albert McLeod, for example, a two-spirit knowledge keeper with ancestry from Nisichwayasihk Cree Nation and the Métis community of Norway House, was recognized for 20 years as a human rights activist. 

“Albert has been a trusted and invaluable member of the MHCC’s LGBTQ2S+ Advisory Group,” said Lynette Schick, the MHCC research and policy analyst who put forward a nomination for McLeod. “Albert guided and informed our efforts to organize a pan-Canadian forum on safer health-care spaces for young members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, and his mentorship was instrumental in making that space welcoming and inclusive — especially for two-spirit attendees.”

This year’s CAMIMH Champions also include Patricia Lingley-Pottie, PhD, a dear friend of the MHCC, who was recognized in the Innovation — Researcher or Clinician category in her capacity as president, CEO, and co-founder of the Strongest Families Institute (SFI), a distance coaching service that uses proprietary e‑health software.

“Patricia isn’t just the brilliant mind behind the enormously successful programs SFI delivers,” enthused Bradley. “She is an advocate with a lion’s heart who is deeply passionate about setting kids and families on the right path early. When Trish walks into a room, she brings with her the kind of energy that gets people up and out of their chairs, determined to join her on this crusade for better services.”

Bradley was equally delighted to see recognition extended to Stella’s Circle, a non-profit organization in her home town of St. John’s that transforms the lives of people living with substance use disorders or mental illness by helping them remove barriers to housing, employment, or support services. “I will say, without reservation, that the Hungry Heart Café [a restaurant and catering service run by Stella’s Circle that employs people living with mental illness or problematic substance use] is my absolute favourite restaurant in the city. The food, service, and staff are excellent. That my delicious meal is helping someone get back on their feet is an added bonus.”

“Just as the CAMIMH awards are eagerly anticipated, so too is the John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award, and this year’s recipient is extraordinarily worthy,” said Bradley, referring to Vikram Patel, PhD. “I’ve met the Harvard professor on a number of occasions, and every time I come away with a new learning or perspective that shifts how I see and understand mental illness.”

As André Picard noted in his Globe and Mail profile of this highly regarded researcher, “what he did, over more than two decades, is debunk the commonly held belief that mental illness was a Western phenomenon, and that poor people had more important things to worry about than their mental health, such as poverty, malaria and AIDS.”

Picard quotes Patel as saying, “It’s a Faustian bargain to say people shouldn’t get mental-health care because they’re in a socially or medically difficult situation. Mental illness can devastate lives as surely as any other condition.”

In yet another victory for mental health in Canada, the Canadian College of Health Leaders (CCHL) awarded its Award of Excellence in Mental Health and Quality Improvement to the Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences.

“Truly, and I’ve said it one thousand times, there is no health without mental health,” said Bradley. “And that’s why seeing Ontario Shores honoured with an award from the CCHL is so meaningful.”

Serving as CCHL’s nomination committee co-chair, Bradley said that choosing this year’s winner was no easy feat. “You cannot believe the extraordinary work being done in the space,” Bradley enthused. “After spending my entire career in mental health, seeing recovery embraced with such success at Ontario Shores – and beyond – is truly inspirational.”