Each year during Mental Health Week, CAMIMH recognizes seven Canadians and organizations whose work has advanced the mental health agenda across the country. These remarkable champions were nominated by their peers, colleagues and community members.
“At a time when our country and the world is faced with a crisis, it’s important to recognize the great work Canadians do year round to support their communities,” said Florence Budden, CAMIMH Co-Chair. “The 2020 Champions’ significant contributions to mental health is inspiring and we look forward to their continued positive action to help Canadians across the country.”
This year, due to COVID-19, we are celebrating the 2020 Champions through our digital platforms during Mental Health Week. This year’s theme is “social connection”, asking Canadians to #GetReal about how they feel.
“We thank all Champions for their hard work throughout the year to support mental health and break down stigmas,” said Mark Ferdinand, CAMIMH Co-Chair. “As Canadians across the country are coming together – from a distance – to support one another during this difficult time, we are pleased to recognize the incredible work being done to improve services for those living with mental illness.”
“Year-round, and especially so during a crisis like the one we are facing, it is important to ask people how they are really feeling,” added Budden. “This is a challenging time and we are so proud of these seven courageous and dedicated Champions who are making such a difference in their communities.”
Starting this month, CAMIMH will feature the 2020 Champions of Mental Health during online panel discussions. The first discussion will take place on May 6th at 2:00 pm with 2020 Champion, HeadsUpGuys and CAMIMH Co-Chair, Florence Budden. The panel will be moderated by Traci Melchor, a 2018 Champion of Mental Health Award recipient, mental health advocate, and CTV’s Etalk Senior Correspondent. The panel is open to the public and to media. Those interested in attending may register here.
The 2020 Champions of Mental Health:
The Sharon Johnston Champion of Mental Health Award for Youth: Justin Langan (Swan River, MB) – Justin is a 21-year-old Métis youth who is heavily involved with Indigenous youth advocacy and mental health initiatives. In 2016, Justin traveled to Ottawa to bring a Métis perspective to a report being drafted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Currently he is the Chair of the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) Northwest Métis Youth Advisory Committee as well as the Northwest representative on the MMF Provincial Youth Advisory Committee. Justin also participates in the Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres’ Youth Engagement Committee and was a youth representative with the RCMP National Youth Advisory Council. Justin is currently producing an Elder/youth interview series for the Northwest Métis Council. Justin has been personally affected by the toll mental illness has on youth and has made it his mission to help create a better understanding of mental health and to develop better opportunities for healing across Canada, especially for Indigenous youth.
Media: Bill Makinson (Cornwall, ON) – Bill is a producer for YourTV Cornwall. He produces the Mental Health Matters program with volunteer host Angele D’Alessio. The program, which aims to educate viewers by bringing awareness and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, features many healthcare professionals in the mental health field and profiles individuals living with mental illness. Over the past five years, 60 episodes have aired on a broad range of mental health topics. Bill believes in the importance of talking about mental health and the stigma surrounding mental illness all year round.
Community (Individual): Janet Stewart (Montréal, QC) – Janet was diagnosed with a severe mental illness in 1989. She then experienced several episodes of psychosis while she was pursuing a career in biological science and raising her daughter. Since 2011, she has been working at the intersection of mental health research, teaching and peer support work at McGill University, the McGill University Hospital Centre, and throughout the Montréal area. She brings the peer perspective to the design and coordination of participatory research projects, has published personal and academic writings, and has spoken at mental health facilities in Montréal and at academic conferences in Canada, the US and Italy. She emphasizes cognitive remediation, care for physical health, social inclusion, and strength-based approaches to psychosocial support among students, researchers, mental healthcare providers and, others. Her goal is to find innovative ways of improving the quality of life for individuals.
Community (Organization): HeadsUpGuys (Vancouver, BC) – HeadsUpGuys is a free online resource that supports men in developing strategies to manage depression and prevent suicide by providing tips, tools, information about professional services, and personal recovery stories. The Public Health Agency of Canada has reported that suicide is the second leading cause of death among men aged 20-29 years and the third leading cause of death among men aged 30-44 years. Since launching in June 2015, HeadsUpGuys has had over 1.6 million website visits and its Self-Check has been completed by more than 150,000 men ages 18+. HeadsUpGuys was founded by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk, a Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Psychotherapy Program at the University of British Columbia.
Innovation – Researcher or Clinician: Dr. Christopher Mushquash (Thunder Bay, ON) – Dr. Mushquash is a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Mental Health and Addiction, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Lakehead University and the Division of Human Sciences at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and the Director of the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research at Lakehead University. He is a registered clinical psychologist providing assessment, intervention and consultation services for First Nations children, adolescents and adults at Dilico Anishinabek Family Care. Dr. Mushquash is Ojibway and a member of Pays Plat First Nation. He is a generous volunteer, frequently meeting with First Nations communities, organizations and students to discuss mental health and addiction. Through his work, he champions culturally and contextually appropriate mental health and addiction services for First Nations peoples, and for individuals living in rural and northern communities.
Parliamentarian: Member of Parliament Charlie Angus (Timmins, ON) – Charlie Angus has been an advocate for mental health and minority communities for decades. At the age of 25, Mr. Angus and his wife opened a Catholic Worker House for the homeless, refugees and men coming out of prison in Toronto that provided a no-questions-asked site for men looking for a safe place to sleep and have a meal. He continued to be a vocal advocate for disadvantaged communities, ultimately running for Member of Parliament where he has been the MP for Timmins-James Bay since 2004. In 2019, Mr. Angus brought forth a Private Members Motion that called on the government to establish a national suicide prevention action plan. His motion was accepted unanimously by the House.
Workplace Mental Health: Versett (Calgary, AB) – Versett is a consulting firm specialized in digital transformation, working globally with offices in Toronto and Calgary. Vinciane de Pape is the company’s Director of Learning and Culture and she knows firsthand how workplace environments can help or hinder mental health as she herself lives with depression and anxiety. Vinciane has transitioned in her role from a product design leader to a director position responsible for providing her team with the support they need to produce high-quality work, and empowering her organization’s people to set healthy boundaries so they can perform at their best. Her dedication to building strong, collaborative teams and a supportive company culture has driven her to advocate for stronger diversity and inclusion programs including better mental health initiatives.
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