This week I had the great pleasure of co-hosting the annual Bell Lecture on Mental Health and Anti-Stigma in our nation’s capital. This event was the second of five annual lectures that are being held across Canada as part of the outreach/knowledge translation activity by Queen’s around the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair held by Dr. Heather Stuart (Public Health Sciences) As you may remember, the Chair was funded in 2012 by a gift from the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative.
The audience included Queen’s alumni, Bell employees, staff from the Royal Ottawa Mental Centre and the Department of National Defense. They were treated to fascinating talks by Dr. Stuart, and by Queen’s alumna (ArtSci’79) Barbara Crook, a well-known philanthropist and mental health advocate in Ottawa.
Heather began her talk by posing this question:
“How many Canadians would…have a financial advisor, hire a lawyer, or see a doctor…if they knew that person had had a mental illness?”
What would be your answer? How would your co-workers respond, your friends, your neighbours?
Heather and Barbara also presented a simple to do list for all of us to address the stigma that is, far too often, the reality for people living with mental illness:
- Watch your language (PEOPLE live with mental illness; no jokes please)
- Educate yourself about mental illness
- Remember, small acts of kindness go a long way (send a get well card; go for coffee)
- Listen and ask – don’t assume or give advice
- Support mental health and anti-stigma programs (write a letter to your MP; donate)
- Start a dialogue, not a debate
Heather has mentioned that she get emails, phone calls and letters every week supporting her work, asking a question or tell a story. I would like to share one testimonial with you from a father attending this week’s lecture:
“Thanks for organizing this yesterday…My 15 year old daughter did join me and was thrilled by the topic, and was touched and inspired by the speakers…As a sufferer of mental illness it was eye opening for her and she greatly appreciates the efforts made in this endeavor.”
Hearing this, I can’t help but feel very proud of this night and the many other efforts made by Queen’s faculty, students and staff to address the issue of mental illness on our campus and across our country.
My thanks to Bell for their visionary gift and to Mary Deacon, chair of Bell Let’s Talk who co-hosted the lecture. Thank you to CFRA morning host Steve Madely for being a terrific MC, and of course to our presenters. A final note of thanks to our staff here at Queen’s organizing this second lecture.
If you would like to answer Heather’s opening question from the lecture, or share a story about mental illness, please reply with your comments…or better yet, please drop by the Macklem House, my door is always open.