February 13, 2019
Among the many much-deserved tributes to the Honourable Michael Wilson that will pour in from across Canada and around the world this week, perhaps the greatest will be for his championship of mental health.
Today, mental health is top-of-mind in any discussion about healthcare and the federal and provincial governments are investing billions to improve mental health services.
In Ontario’s provincial election last June, every party had a position on and proposals for mental health services. And MPs, MPPs and business leaders are willing to talk publicly about the mental health issues that they or members of their families have faced.
It is hard to remember that less than 30 years ago, mental health was talked about in whispers, if it was discussed at all.
Mr. Wilson worked tirelessly to bring the issue of mental health out of the shadows and into the mainstream, even before the suicide of his son at age 29 in 1995.
In the words of Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC), Mr. Wilson “led the country’s collective awakening around mental illness long before fundraising drives were commonplace. Through his courage and unflinching commitment, he helped shatter the stigma that kept mental health conversations hushed.”
In addition to serving as former chair of the MHCC, he was active in the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, the NeuroScience Partnership of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and other organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society dedicated to improving the health and education of Canadians.
For organizations like ours – Addictions and Mental Health Ontario, which represents more than 200 community organizations across the province – Mr. Wilson is an inspiration.
It is easy to imagine that many of the 300,000 Ontarians we help on the road to recovery every year may never have walked through the doors of one of our organizations without Mr. Wilson’s dedication to this cause over the past 30 years.
In his own words, “unless you take the long view, it can be easy to forget just how far we’ve come — because we still have a ways to go.”
Mr. Wilson will be remembered as a business leader, a cabinet minister and former ambassador to the United States, but perhaps most of all, as a tireless champion of mental health in Canada.