Bringing the Mental Health Agenda to the forefront

Lots of people may choose to sit on a beach or visit famous faraway places when they get a few days off, but I chose something quite local, historical, and political instead.  I took the opportunity to affect change on a larger scale. 

As the past-president of the Canadian Federation of Mental Health Nurses (CFMHN), I am very pleased to represent psychiatric nurses nationally as a board member of the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness & Mental Health (CAMIMH).  CAMIMH is a non-profit organization made up of health care providers and organizations which represent individuals with lived experience of mental illness.

Established in 1998, CAMIMH is a volunteer run alliance of national organizations whose activities span the broad continuum of mental health. They represent consumers and their families; health care and social service providers; professional associations; and community and research organizations. Together, we at CAMIMH constitute a vibrant network of national, provincial and community-based organizations dedicated to serving the mental health needs of the people of Canada from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Their lived mission is to promote and facilitate the development, adoption, and implementation of a national action plan on mental illness and mental health. To achieve this, CAMIMH aims to engage Canadians in a national conversation about mental illness.

One of their major annual initiatives is the Faces of Mental Illness campaign. “Faces” is a national education campaign that operates in conjunction with Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW).  For the last three years during MIAW, CAMIMH board members bring together Members of Parliament, prominent decision makers and “the faces” from the Faces of Mental Illness campaign to express support for current mental health initiatives and engage in a discussion regarding the need for increased access to mental health services for all Canadians.

On October 7th during MIAW, with my CAMIMH board member colleagues, I was proud to participate in over 52 meetings with Ministers and MP’s on Parliament Hill as part of this important campaign.  Our day started very early and rainy when we met with Ministers and MP’s at 7 a.m. for breakfast in the historic Parliamentary Dining Room. The day was then kicked off by my friend and our MC and chair, Florence Budden RN, Past-President of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, CFMHN Board Member, CAMIMH Board Member and nursing school teacher. We “took” the hill in small groups, meeting with various elected officials to bring a national mental health agenda forward.

As we made our way through the day the excitement was palpable. It is a very exciting time to be in the House of Commons. Many of us were able to attend Question Period, which if you have never seen; words will not adequately describe some of the interesting behaviors displayed. What I can tell you is that by day’s end, it was clear that no matter who you were, where you lived or represented the national mental health agenda was on everyone’s mind.

For more information on CAMIMH visit