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Over the last decade Canada has taken major strides in raising awareness and reducing the stigma of mental illness for its citizens. A leading cause of disability in Canada and an issue affecting about one in five individuals, Canada has spent the last several years making mental health care a priority for its people through several important initiatives.

In 2012 the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) introduced a new agenda Changing Directions, Changing Lives. Designed “to bring mental health ‘out of the shadows’ and to recognize, in both words and deeds, the truth of the saying that there can be no health without mental health,” this is the first ever mental health strategy released in Canada. It aims to improve the mental health and well-being of all people living in Canada. The key catalyst for this strategy was the thousands of testimonials shared by individuals living with mental health and substance abuse conditions. This release marks a significant milestone for increasing mental health care and reducing stigma for Canadians.

Canada has also recently implemented a new program which pairs police officers with mental health professionals in the field. Police Officers in Hamilton, Ontario and skilled mental health workers are now an integral part of a Mobile Rapid Crisis Response Team, designed to keep individuals with mental health issues from being unnecessarily sent to the emergency room or jail. Mental health specialists, who typically work with victims, are now using their training and knowledge about mental health conditions to help handle potentially difficult situations. Mental health workers participating in the program report that is this new initiative has been successful at de-escalating situations and getting people involved in an emergency situation the right help at the right time. Hamilton police officers are also expected to complete additional trainings so that they too can better assist a person in crisis.

This nationwide effort to change how Canadians think about and treat their mental health also extended to the National Hockey League (NHL) in 2013. Seven Canadian NHL teams came together to form Hockey Talks, a month-long initiative to increase dialogue and awareness about mental health and effective treatments with the hopes of spreading this important message to citizens of all ages and backgrounds.

Canada has made a concerted effort to proactively address the mental health needs of its people. Their police force is becoming more conscious of mental illness. Their government is embarking on a strategic plan to improve the mental health of its people. And they have worked with NHL Teams to help spread stigma-fighting messages around the country. The United States would benefit from many of these programs, as well as a united national effort to prioritize mental health for its people.

Resources
Leung, M. (2015, April 13). Hamilton police bring mental health workers along to frontlines. Retrieved June 29, 2015, from http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/hamilton-police-bring-mental-health-workers-along-to-frontlines-1.2324222
Initiatives: Mental Health Strategy for Canada. (n.d.). Retrieved June 29, 2015, from http://www.mentalhealthcommission.ca/English/initiatives-and-projects/mental-health-strategy-canada
Canadian NHL Clubs Build Awareness for Mental Health and Wellness Through. (2013, January 31). Retrieved July 6, 2015, from http://oilers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=653454