"Let's Talk" about a very important topic that likely affects every one of us and millions of Canadians, directly or indirectly: mental illnesses.
In fact, according to Health Canada :
- One in three Canadians will face a neurological disorder, injury or psychiatric disease in their lifetime.
- Neurological diseases, disorders and injuries represent one of the leading causes of disability in the Canadian population.
- Mental illnesses affect people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
- Brain disease and mental illness are costly to patients, their families and care givers, communities and the health care system.
There are no boundaries that mental illnesses cannot cross; therefore, it can affect any one of us.
Tragically, there is still a stigma attached to mental illnesses in our society. People suffering from mental illnesses may be afraid to seek treatment for fear of reprisal from those that could not or would not understand. Education and research are key to breaking down the barriers that isolate those suffering from mental illnesses, as well as enlightening the rest of society to play a supportive role, rather than add to the problem by making ignorant generalizations, assumptions or judgments.
As someone who has been directly impacted by family members suffering from mental illnesses, I was pleased to attend, on behalf of Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Brain Canada's inaugural Mental Health Research Training Awards in Vancouver, BC on February 8th, 2013.
In 2011, the Government of Canada set aside $100 million to establish the Canada Brain Research Fund, based on a public-private model which matches private donations dollar-for-dollar with federal funding. Brain Canada, the only national non-profit organization devoted to supporting all neuroscience research, awarded several Studentships and Fellowships to talented recipients, the next generation of researchers.
One of the highlights of the event was meeting and listening to the national spokesperson for the Bell Let's Talk Initiative, now in its third year - Canadian Olympic icon and hero, Clara Hughes.
Clara explained that despite the rigorous training to win medals in both the Summer and Winter Olympic games, nothing was tougher than her struggles with depression. She is a champion in every sense of the word.
Finally, I want to commend Inez Jabalpurwala, President and CEO or Brain Canada; and Mary Deacon, Chair of the Bell Mental Health Initiative for their leadership for the success of Bell Let's Talk Initiative.
Honourable Senators, let’s join the conversation on mental health. Let’s see how we can end the stigma. Let’s talk.