The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) has announced the five Canadians who have been named as the “2020-21 Faces of Mental Illness.” The announcement came just before the start of Mental Illness Awareness Week, which will be held from October 4th to 10th, 2020.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has lifted a veil on the prevalence of mental illness amongst Canadians, and really shown how widespread it is,” said Florence Budden, Co-Chair of CAMIMH. “This year’s five Faces reflect this diversity and message. The Faces come from across Canada, from many backgrounds, and with different experiences.”
Each year, five Faces of Mental Illness are selected to represent the 1 in 5 Canadians affected by mental illness. They are also celebrated for their advocacy work and for sharing their journey of recovery. These brave individuals help CAMIMH advocate for improvements to Canada’s mental health policies by sharing their stories of resilience and recovery.
“This is one of the most exciting groups of Faces that CAMIMH has had the pleasure to work with,” said Ellen Cohen, Co-Chair of CAMIMH. “We are eager to share their stories leading into this year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week which runs from October 4 to 10, 2020.”
The theme of the 2020 Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) highlights that now more than ever Canadians understand that there is no health without mental health. As we all navigate these challenging times by adjusting our behaviours, attitudes, lifestyles and social interactions, we want to recognize and celebrate the movement we as a society have made in prioritizing mental health.
This year, CAMIMH is calling on all governments to strive for mental health parity by advocating for better, more accessible mental health services for all Canadian on par with physical health.
“We’ve all had to face new challenges both with our physical and mental health as a result of the pandemic. This year’s MIAW is more important than ever before, as we work to bring adequate supports for more Canadians,” added Cohen.
During MIAW, CAMIMH will also host the 2020 Champions of Mental Health Virtual Awards Ceremony. Originally scheduled as an in-person gala in May, CAMIMH looks forward to recognizing seven remarkable Canadians who have made outstanding contributions to improving mental health in Canada. The awards ceremony will take place on October 6 at 6 p.m. EST and will include remarks from notable Canadians, including parliamentarians and celebrities.
“We hope to see a record number of Canadians participate in this year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week campaign so that we can show governments that investment in mental health supports needs to be a priority as we plan for post-pandemic recovery,” concluded Budden.
Across Canada, hundreds of organizations including schools, workplaces and hospitals are supporting MIAW with their own initiatives. To see what various organizations and individuals are doing we encourage all to monitor the hashtag #MIAW20 on social media throughout the week.
The 2020-2021 Faces of Mental Illness
Karandeep Gill (Brampton, ON) – Karandeep has struggled with mental health issues since she was 15. At age 24 she was correctly diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type after being hospitalized seven times over the previous decade. Following her last hospitalization for severe paranoia and visual hallucinations, she followed an intensive inpatient and outpatient recovery program that helped her cope. Karandeep shares her recovery journey through talks and her mental health awareness Instagram account (@livinginpeacee_), inspiring others to know that they are not alone in this battle.
Caroline Fei-Yeng Kwok (Toronto, ON) – With the stress of being a new immigrant and the breakup of a marriage, Caroline was diagnosed with bipolar disorder shortly after arriving in Canada. Multiple early hospitalizations resulted in social exclusion from her local community whose members considered her an invalid for life. Through the encouragement of understanding mental health professionals and her own research into the concept of recovery, she was able to write two books, Free to Fly: A Story of Manic Depression, and Journeys of Renewed Hope, both of which advocate for mental health awareness. Caroline is a program provider to immigrants of colour survivors at a centre in Toronto and continues to give presentations at hospitals and at national and international conferences on mental health and recovery.
Keith Lyon (Fredericton, NB) – Experiencing psychosis and paranoia in his 20s, Keith spent 10 years in and out of psychiatric units. Stigma about needing medication and feeling that people didn’t understand him were barriers to his recovery. With the support of his family and close friends, his faith, work and community engagement support, Keith has spent the last several years on a positive path, now working at a local supermarket. Keith proudly shares his experiences with schizophrenia to offer others hope and donates proceeds from his four children’s books to the psychiatric unit that helped him.
Lydia Migneault (Longueuil, QC) – Lydia Migneault has lived with mental illness from a very young age, fighting suicidal thoughts. After several years of highs and lows, hospitalizations for suicide attempt, work stoppages, recovery and relapse, she was finally diagnosed with anxiety, borderline personality disorder as well as an eating disorder. Following her diagnosis in 2017, she began speaking openly about her mental illness, which helped her make sense of all these episodes. Thanks to therapy and the support of her family, today she is living a healthy and balanced life on a personal, social and professional level. Lydia is involved in various projects to talk about mental health and giving back to the next generation. She is also a blogger and contributor to a blog which aims to fight against taboos and prejudices towards mental illness and has more than 10,000 subscribers.
Nick Petrella (Ancaster, ON) – Diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety in 2010, Nick initially felt shame and guilt. Over the next five years he saw a dozen different mental health professionals. He finally found a therapist who was able to help him and slowly began his recovery. With the support of his wife, his therapist, his friend at CMHA, his two young daughters and three dogs, Nick lives and breathes mental health awareness to reduce stigma and prove that recovery is possible every day. He proudly educates others and is the co-founder of Mental Health in Motion at Mohawk College where he is a professor.
CAMIMH would like to thank its generous sponsors who make this campaign possible: Bell Let’s Talk, the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Lundbeck Canada Inc., Innovative Medicines Canada, and Impact Public Affairs.
To learn more about CAMIMH and Mental Illness Awareness Week, please visit www.camimh.ca.