Monday, October 2, 2017 was a big day in the world of Mental Health and it was an important day for the harvesting of Mi Vision. How appropriate given the October Harvest moon this week.

First things first.

October 2, 2017 was the first day of Mental Illness Awareness Week 2017 (#MIAW17), it was the official groundbreaking for the boldest phase yet of CAMH’s Queen Street Redevelopment Project, the McCain Family Foundation, Complex Care Building, adding 235 beds for in-patient care and 150,000 visits annually to the Emergency Department for CAMH, and it was also the reveal of the news that the CAMH Breakthrough Campaign (Canada’s largest hospital campaign for mental health) exceeded its target of $200M by $85M. 

What an exceptional, extraordinary day it was!

And there I was, among those allied to the cause, together in community to acknowledge, honor and support this welcome news in the continued commitment to invest in Canada’s Mental Health System.

This however, is not where it all began.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada’s (MHCC) Report, Strengthening the Case for Investing in Canada’s Mental Health System: Economic Considerations, published in March, 2017, set the stage. And the before that, the MHCC Report, Making the Case for Investing in Mental Health in Canada, published in 2013. These important reports provide economic rationale for investing in mental health and provide policy makers, healthcare administrators and elected officials support for the question they have faced for many years: “where to invest?”

I remember the elation I felt this past spring when I read the Economic Considerations report.  What stood out most for me was this comment in the Executive Summary: "improving access to psychotherapy creates improved quality of life and saves about two dollars for every dollar spent". Yes! Yes!

My transformational experience with Mental Illness was not possible without psychotherapy. It’s what made my recovery, healing and thriving through mental illness possible after 24 years of living a numb, medicated existence. 

I specifically chose Transpersonal Psychotherapy because Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) had not been helpful for me.  Transpersonal Psychotherapy integrates multiple aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology. I had access to a trained professional in Transpersonal Psychotherapy. I made a commitment to stay the course, and I had the means to pay for it. This is the trifecta that’s needed in our Mental Health System: Access, commitment and means.

I am 10 years depression free and live a non-medicated, emotionally full, joyful life as a result of the inner resilience and skills that I built in myself through Transpersonal Psychotherapy. These skills allow me to self-regulate my emotions and thereby eliminate the emotional overwhelm of the past that caused my depression. 

These same skills are what I believe every person with mental illness should have a chance to build. They should have the chance to become self-empowered and create a joyful, emotionally full life for themselves, just as I did. 

The MHCC report validates the benefits of psychotherapy for both quality of life and economic investment. I am a not only a living testament to that; it is my vision that the role of unresolved trauma in mental illness be understood and excavated and that those suffering have access to a broader range of professionals trained in trauma modalities as mandatory components in the mental illness treatment protocol.

So, on this day of celebration in the world of Mental Health, when I finally got to meet face-to-face the Hon. Michael Wilson, I was beside myself.

Some of you may know the Hon. Michael Wilson as the Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) who’s goal is to help people who live with mental health problems and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives by providing relevant jurisdictions and stakeholders with the tools and information required to improve the quality of mental health care and access to it. 

I know the Hon. Michael Wilson more intimately; through our shared experience of losing a family member to suicide. It’s a connection that bonds us long before we ever meet in person.

I knew he was a catalyst for the 2013 and 2017 MHCC Reports.  And after I thanked him for elevating mental health to the forefront, I shared with him my desire to be seated at the MHCC table, that “improves mental health outcomes for all” with my voice as a lived experience advocate in this important conversation.

I shared with him, that like him, I also speak for those who cannot be heard. And I have much to say at this table and much to contribute to CHANGE HOW WE SEE & TREAT MENTAL ILLNESS.

I patiently await the timing for this possibility to arise and I will be honored, privileged and ready to contribute to the essential work to be done to create a future where mental health is equal to physical health in our healthcare system and those with mental illness have access and means to choose Psychotherapy to empower them to create a joyful, emotionally full life.   

The seed has been planted. I will continue to tend to the soil and nurture this desire to fruition.

PS. I also told the Hon. Michael Wilson that “when I am seated at that table it won’t be inappropriate to invite you to my table for the best pasta you’ve ever had!”  To which he replied, “I LOVE pasta.”  Thank you nonna for the precious times spent in the kitchen with you.