Sandra receives the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal

The Diamond Jubilee marks the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II ascension to the throne. In Canada, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is given to individuals who made a significant contribution to their community or Canada in the past sixty years.

I was invited to Ottawa to receive it in a ceremony with the Governor General at Rideau Hall on February 6th, 2013 along with about sixty other recipients. Ottawa weather is quite freezing in February. But the welcome was warm. This photo was taken in the greenhouse at Rideau Hall.

Across Canada, 60,000 citizens and permanent residents were honoured with this award between February 2012 and February 2013. Hundreds of thousands of these commemorative medals were awarded to deserving individuals in the United Kingdom and overseas territories.

A mental health social movement is born

Suicide and violence related to mental illness have made headlines all over North America. It is unfortunate that suicide and violence related to people with untreated mental illness had to reach such extreme crises before the alarm bells were loud enough to get much needed attention for issues that have existed for decades. But I think the recent response overall has been to recognize we must make necessary changes and provide proper care for people who need it in order to prevent similar events from happening in the future.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada launched the Canadian Mental Health Strategy on May 8, 2012. The publication of Changing Directions, Changing Lives came as a result of years of advocacy and hard work by many individuals who came together to speak out about the deficiencies in the mental health system and the criminal justice system in its treatment of people with mental illness, the need for psychologically healthy and safe workplaces, and the need to support youth, adults, seniors, and families in all races suffering with mental health issues. Addiction, poverty, homelessness, and crime are problems which can be outcomes of having a serious mental illness.

In the pages of the Strategy, I read about the need for a national social movement to help push mental health initiatives forward. The Bell Let's Talk campaign and Hockey Talks are two huge steps forward to create such a movement.

Bell Let's Talk, a 5-year multi-million dollar project which began in 2010, has people talking about mental health across Canada and provides funds for improving mental health care and resources across the nation. Bell Let's Talk is also one sponsor of the CAMIMH Faces of Mental Illness campaign and the Champions of Mental Health campaign which recognize advocacy and other work toward improving mental health in Canada.

Hockey Talks is another initiative that I find to be very powerful. This month, the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets are speaking out about mental health and wellness at games nights and online. In the video below, Kevin Bieksa pays tribute to Rick Rypien, a former Vancouver Canuck, who battled with depression and committed suicide.

In British Columbia, Coast Mental Health and The Kettle Friendship Society do good work in providing housing, meals, and other supports to people with mental illness. The Courage to Come Back Awards sponsored by Coast Mental Health recognizes people in the community who have mental illness and addiction issues who are an inspiration that recovery is possible.

Bridgeross Communications is one publisher of many memoirs and books by mental health consumers and their families who want to shed light on what it means to have a mental illness. Hidden Lives recently published by Brindle and Glass is an anthology of similar stories. Books such as these inspire and inform readers around the world.

As a country, we are having the conversations, reducing stigma, and building momentum and awareness. We need to dispel the myths and help make it better for so many of us who are affected by these issues.

Bell Let's Talk Day coming February 12th

On February 12, 2013, Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health for every text and long distance call by Bell and Bell Aliant customers, tweets using #BellLetsTalk, and Facebook shares of the Bell Let's Talk image. (regular long distance and text charges apply)

The Bell Let's Talk mental health initiative is a 5-year, $50-million charitable program based on 4 action pillars: anti-stigma, care and access, research, and workplace best practices. With Bell Let's Talk Day as its anti-stigma centrepiece, Bell's initiative is providing significant funding for leading mental health hospitals and grassroots organizations, driving new workplace initiatives across corporate Canada, and supporting new research.

In 2012, 8 million Canadians participated with more than 78 million text messages, long distance calls and retweets on Bell Let's Talk Day, resulting in $3,926,014.20 in additional funding for mental health initiatives across the country.

To learn more, please visit

Personally, I think it's fantastic that Bell Canada is doing this work. 

There is a shortage of housing and hospital beds for people with mental illness. Mental health teams are turning people away. People wait for months to acquire a psychiatrist. Community support is crucial.

So please participate!