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David Baxter

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PM names 17, some directly affected, to mental health board
Friday, August 31, 2007
CBC News

Appointees include a Nova Scotian with bipolar disorder

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has named 17 people ? including a Nova Scotian with bipolar disorder, a New Brunswick professor with a schizophrenic child, and the federal deputy minister of health ? to a mental health board led by retired Liberal senator Michael Kirby.

The fledgling Canadian Mental Health Commission "will lead a national campaign to erase the stigma of mental illness," Harper said Friday in a ceremony in Ottawa.

It will also be a cross-country clearinghouse for information on the best ways to deal with mental disorders, he said.

Plans to create the commission were announced in the dying days of the Liberal government in 2005.

In March, Harper's Conservative government provided money for it ? $10 million over two years and $15 million a year after that ? and named Kirby its first chairman.

Kirby spearheaded a 2006 Senate report on mental health and used his last weeks in office to campaign for a national strategy to stop stigmatizing the mentally ill.

In a CBC News interview on Friday, Kirby said he had a sister who overcame severe depression and learned that the mentally ill can face discrimination "in many ways worse than the disease itself."

One of his dreams, he said, is "ultimately getting to the point where you don't identify someone as living with a mental illness any more than you identify someone as living with high blood pressure, [and] where people accept that there are physical and mental illnesses and they should be treated alike."

Harper fleshed out the commission Friday with the naming of the 17 directors and eight advisory committee heads.

Among the directors are:

  • Andy Cox of Milford Station, N.S., who works as a mental health patient advocate for children and youth in Halifax. He has bipolar disorder.
  • Jeannette Leblanc, of Moncton, a professor of nursing and mother of a child living with schizophrenia.
  • David Goldbloom, a Toronto psychiatrist and former physician-in-chief of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
  • Morris Rosenberg, the federal deputy health minister, and his counterparts from Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.
Harper stressed the scope of their task.

"We see the results of mental health disorders, mental illness, everywhere ? among the homeless on our streets; we see it in our workplaces among co-workers felled by stress or worse, and we see it in our families, where we become intimately acquainted with the pain and suffering it causes," he said.

"It's estimated that one in five Canadians will develop some sort of mental illness in his or her lifetime. Nearly one million are plagued with a severe or persistent disorder. It is now the fastest growing category of disability insurance in Canada."
 

just mary

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Re: PM names 17, some directly affected, to mental health board

I don't mean to be cynical but I can't help it. I've seen so many panels and commissions that sit around and talk and talk and then they write a big report and nothing ever happens. I think it's just window dressing for whoever is in power to make it seem like they're doing something. And as for erasing the stigma associated with mental illness, why don't we just erase racism at the same time.

Just my little vent.
 

David Baxter

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Re: PM names 17, some directly affected, to mental health board

You may well be right. However, I think the fact that the head of the commission and some of the members have direct experience with mental health stigma may bode well. And even the fact that there is public acknowledgement of stigma as a problem can't hurt.

A baby step, perhaps, but at this point people with mental health issues have been shoved aside for so long that anything no matter how little is better than the status quo.
 

just mary

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Re: PM names 17, some directly affected, to mental health board

Honestly, I think more people listen to Oprah and Dr. Phil than a commission.

It also kind of irks me that the first thing the media picks up is the fact that one of the members is bipolar. It takes awhile before you learn that he is more than just his illness.
 

David Baxter

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Re: PM names 17, some directly affected, to mental health board

It also kind of irks me that the first thing the media picks up is the fact that one of the members is bipolar. It takes awhile before you learn that he is more than just his illness.

True enough. Then again, that's part of the problem, isn't it?
 
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Re: PM names 17, some directly affected, to mental health board

i am seeing this as a positive move. even if not a whole lot comes of it, even if it's a PR move by the prime minister, the message "there is stigma around mental illness and we need to change this" is starting to be sent to the public. it will take time for the stigma to be dealt with but it's a start. one of the articles posted here once said when it comes to depression we are where cancer was x years ago in terms of stigma (i can't remember how many years ago, maybe 20?). today cancer is widely accepted as a disease and doesn't seem to have any stigma attached to it.

it reminds me of the gay and lesbian community. i know my views had slowly changed over time and a lot of that has to do with the public opinion changing, as a result of movements and it being talked about in public.
 

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