MHCC encourages focus on mental health heading into election

From left to right: MP Gord Johns, MP Majid Jowhari, MP Matt Jeneroux, MHCC’s Louise Bradley, Movember Foundation’s Alexandra Wise, MP Carol Hugues

As the 42nd Parliament drew to a close, the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) was busy engaging Parliamentarians to ensure mental health was top of mind as they returned to their home ridings before the fall election.

In partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, MHCC developed and shared a toolkit of resources to strengthen awareness about workplace mental health in all 338 ridings represented by members of Parliament (MP). The 338 Conversations campaign materials, which include templates to host community events, will help MPs and local chambers of commerce raise awareness in their own communities and discuss the importance of protecting and promoting mental health in the workplace.

Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu invited MHCC president and CEO Louise Bradley to deliver keynote remarks for a local 338 Conversations event on June 21. Bradley’s talk emphasized accommodations for workers living with mental health problems and illnesses, which have been shown to improve employees’ relationships and job satisfaction as well as employers’ reputations. Late last year, the MHCC developed a toolkit to help employers recruit and retain such workers.

Conversations about mental health were again in the spotlight during Men’s Health Week, June 10-16. In support of Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day on June 12, the MHCC hosted an educational event on Parliament Hill. House Speaker Geoff Regan, MPs Majid Jowhari, Matt Jeneroux, and Gord Johns shared personal stories about mental health challenges and the toll of stigma.

Keynote speaker Alexandra Wise from the Movember Foundation focused on the need to help men reach out when in crisis, after presenting a powerful story about losing her father to suicide. Her call to action reflected the organization’s recent campaign, Be a Man of More Words, and underscored remarks Bradley had made about vulnerability and stigma.

“While the rates of mental illness among men and women are similar,” she said, “men are less likely to recognize, talk about, and seek treatment. A big part of that has to do with stigma, and overcoming it is one of the biggest hurdles for someone living with a mental health problem or illness.”

Empowering youth was also central to a June 13 MHCC luncheon on Parliament Hill for parliamentarians who are Indigenous or represent Indigenous constituents. The initiative arose from Indigenous communities’ growing involvement in the MHCC’s HEADSTRONG anti-stigma summits, which are resonating strongly among Indigenous youth. In these events, young people (age 12-18) hear stories of hope and recovery from speakers with lived experience of mental illness, then participate in stigma-busting activities and design an action plan for their home community. Close to forty per cent of the MHCC’s HEADSTRONG programming is now designed with Indigenous communities.