This year’s theme is Ahead by a century: the shape of things to come. We have reached a watershed moment: the community mental health movement in Canada, as embodied by CMHA, is a century old. We can look at how far we have come, but now is also the time to look ahead and innovate for the future.
In the early days of the last century, CMHA founder Dr. Clarence Hincks and his supporters were talking about reducing stigma and about more humane care for people suffering from mental illness. He was ahead of his time, but if we are to think our vision of mental health in Canada into being, we have further to go. Looking back will help us leap forward.
A century later, we’re not done talking about reducing stigma and increasing access to quality care. But we can also say that so much has changed. Community mental health has transformed mental health in Canada. CMHA is proud to have played a vital leadership role in community mental health over the past century, pushing for an approach that centres on the lives of people with mental health problems, and not on the institutions and systems designed to help them.
Looking ahead means looking upstream: upstream to mental health promotion, to preventing mental illness. Our current system is based on responding to crisis, and to meeting the acute needs of people with severe mental illness. We know there is so much more that can be done, and done earlier. We have learned that access to high quality services that are timely, person-centered, and culturally responsive are key.
It’s time to envision the future of mental health in Canada. To invest in a future where schools are places +that foster resilience in our children, where campuses are places where risk factors for mental illness are reduced, where workplaces are psychologically safe spaces, and communities are diverse and thriving.
This year’s conference builds on last year’s whole-of-country focus and issues a call to action for all of us. We want schools, campuses, workplaces, people with lived experience of struggle and recovery, care providers and health care facilities, municipalities, and all communities to think outside the box toward a population-based mental health approach for the next century.
So, let’s share, create and innovate. Together, let’s catapult mental health into the next century.