We’re committing to a better mental health system. Are you?

Apr. 10, 2018

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Martha Powell

It feels like there has been a lot of talk in recent years about how our mental health and addictions care system needs to improve.  We’re guilty of it too. After we released our 2016 Vital Signs report, through the lens of mental health, we convened local mental health leaders, hoping we could ignite action and change. While we created another space to talk about how to change, we struggled to determine what to change.  So, we paused. We reconvened. And we came back – this time, with the “what”.

On Wednesday, March 28th, we rallied over 50 local mental health leaders and stakeholders from the community together. With representatives from CAMH, SWLHIN, mindyourmind and everywhere in between, the right people were in the room and we were thrilled, because we had a call to action ready.

The morning started off with an overview of the Community Health Collaborative (CHC), a group that consists of healthcare organizations, community services and researchers.  Their vision? Communities where every individual’s wellbeing is actively and fully supported. Identifying mental health and addictions as a key challenge for our community, like our 2016 Vital Signs report, CHC is committing to collective influence to drive and empower change.

“If you were the boss and had all the money in the world, what would you do right now to make this happen?” – Mary Wiley 

The City of London also spoke about the Mental Health and Addictions Strategy for London and Middlesex, which focuses on Moving Forward, a collaborative, actionable strategy. The overall takeaway seems to be that of enhanced access for all and increased awareness of services available in our community. 

Our keynote speaker, Mary Wiley, Executive Director of Niagara Connects, spoke next, talking about the Niagara Mental Health Charter. An incredible presentation, full of passion and drive, Mary provided details on how it all came to be. She was clear to point out that they began this journey six years ago, in 2012, and it’s far from over.  The Niagara Mental Health Charter is a “50 year plan,” because these things take time. The intention is clear, too – a network of people collaborating, planning, learning and innovating, and community action toward a stronger future for Niagara.

Mary emphasized that what London Community Foundation is aiming to achieve with London and Middlesex, isn’t that different from when Niagara began. Niagara, like LCF, aimed to convene and help move the community forward collectively:

“We don’t have all the answers. We’re always moving, growing and improving” says Mary, “It’s not about undermining the efforts already under way. It’s about uniting those efforts and sharing them for a greater impact.”

As we reflect back on our 2016 Vital Signs report and the subsequent Vital Conversations, LCF is able to collectively acknowledge that we’ve made the impact we can, engaging stakeholders and the broader community to the best of our ability. Now we're cheering on those with the ability to make lasting change do just that. Although our role isn't set in stone, rest assured we’ll be watching and listening, eager to help where we can.

Learn more about Niagara Connects, Niagara Knowledge Exchange, and view the Charter roadmap!

If you’re a part of a mental health and/or addictions organization in our community, this is your chance to commit to a better future for our community: Call to Action to strengthen mental health in our community. 

For more highlights from Mary Wiley’s presentation, give this document a quick glance!