Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada was released on May 8, 2012 and is Canada’s first national mental health strategy. Until now, Canada was the only G8 country without a mental health strategy. The Commission writes: “We believe that there now exists an historic opportunity to make a difference. It will not be easy, but the winds of change have been swirling about the mental health system for many years,” (p.3). The Commission notes that the strategy is informed by testimony from people living with mental health problems and illnesses, from family members and from service providers. It says: “People living with mental health problems and illnesses and their family members are “experts by experience” (p.31). Yay!
Given its roots in the lived experience of thousands of people who shared their insights, it should not be surprising that the value of peer support is clearly recognized in the strategy. Peer Support is described as “an essential component of mental health services” (p.51). and the following recommendations are made:
- 3.4.1 Increase appropriately resourced peer support initiatives in both independent peer-run agencies and mainstream settings.
- 3.4.2 Increase peer support opportunities for families.
- 3.4.3 Develop nationally recognized guidelines for peer support, in collaboration with peer support organizations. (p. 52)
The work of the Mental Health Commission could very well represent an historic leap forward for peer support in Canada: more peer support for people living with mental health issues and their families plus national guidelines that could well raise the profile of peer support and enhance the recognition of its credibility. That is, if the Mental Health Commission’s recommendations come into practice.
- Check out the full report: Changing Directions, Changing Lives: The Mental Health Strategy for Canada
- Watch the launch of Canada’s Mental Health National Strategy
- See information on the Mental Health Commission’s Peer Project
If you want to compare Canada’s Mental Health Strategy to those of some other English speaking countries check out the following sites: