The CAMH Difference Makers Symposium and Gala was an outstanding success!  The welcome address for the morning Symposium was delivered by Dr. Catherine Zahn, CEO CAMH Foundation.  Speaking of mental health on the national agenda following the launch of CAMH Difference Makers Campaign in 2017 she says proudly, "It was a year of heightened engagement” . The Symposium featured highly esteemed panelists that informed and engaged the attendees on key mental health issues of access to care, the role of the pharmacist, creating mentally healthy spaces, safety in social media, educating, driving social change and sharing stories of recovery. 

Sheldon Kennedy of Child Advocacy Centre, Former NHL Player and Order of Canada recipient, spoke passionately about his belief in sharing stories of recovery “We don't hear enough of people who live in good recovery.  We need to hear from them: how they got it, what did they learn".  I couldn't agree with him more.  While we create a systemic shift that addresses the need for increased funding, broader treatment modalities and easy access to treatment for mental illness, we can share our stories of recovery and maybe, just maybe, someone out there will discover, through those stories, something that can help them and ignite hope in them for recovery.   

Some of the key messages from other members of the speakers panel that resonated with me were: “We must educate our children” Corey Hirsch, Former NHL Goalie, Olympic Silver Medalist and Mental Health Advocate. “Exclusion of anyone is a lost opportunity of human potential.” Deborah Gillis, CAMH Foundation CEO. 

Round table discussions were a valuable continuation of the speakers insights, allowing the attendees' varied perspectives to be shared and understood with one another. There is nothing greater than to be among like minded individuals; to hear different perspectives from them and gain knowledge that is unique to them.

Fellow Difference Maker, Author, Brain Health Advocate and trailblazer, Margret Trudeau delivered the Symposium's Closing Plenary remarking “I have purpose now” and she adds that we have to “celebrate recovery to give people hope. “Echoing the importance of celebrating recovery to give people hope that Sheldon Kennedy also spoke about. I had an opportunity to meet Margaret Trudeau and I thanked her for her commitment to talking about mental health, spanning decades, when there was hardly any talking about mental health to be heard of.   

The evening Difference Makers Gala was both inspirational and energetic.  It began with a welcome address by CAMH CEO, Dr. Catherine Zahn that included a simple and powerful  message. “That the response to mental health be care, not judgment”.  The evening program included stories from fellow Difference Makers as well as musical performances.  Difference Maker Robb Nash performed a very moving and deeply meaningful duet “Tell Me Why?" with Florence K Estrellas. 

Difference Makers Campaign Chairs Sandi and Jim Treliving announced that  $2 MIL was raised for CAMH Foundation and delivered the closing remarks  “A wonderful day full of constructive dialogue and sharing. Though we've a long way to go, it's clear that there are many willing to make a difference. “  To that I say, I  agree and I am one.

The grand finale was as grand as it gets with International Recording Artist, Juno Award Winning, Queen of R & B, Activist, Miss Jully Black performing with Forte Chorus, bringing down the house, as she declared "We love you, we see you!  This is how we do it in Canada!" 

Such an extraordinary day of expansion and reflection this was!  The Symposium and the gala, equally outstanding in educating, sharing and connecting for the creation of a future where #MentalHealthIsHealth will not need to be said, but rather, just be the way it is.