PM names 17, some directly affected, to mental health board

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has named 17 people — including a Nova Scotian with bipolar disorder and a New Brunswick woman with a schizophrenic child — to the board of the Canadian Mental Health Commission.

Appointees include a Nova Scotian with bipolar disorder

Prime MinisterStephen Harper has named 17 people —includinga Nova Scotian with bipolar disorder, aNew Brunswickprofessor with a schizophrenic childand the federal deputy minister of health — toa mental health boardled byretired Liberal senator Michael Kirby.

Thefledgling Canadian Mental Health Commission"will lead a national campaign to erase the stigma of mental illness,"Harper said Friday in a ceremony in Ottawa.

It will also be a cross-country clearinghouse for information on the best ways to deal with mental disorders, he said.

Plans to create the commission were announced in the dying days of the Liberal government in 2005.

In March,Harper's Conservativegovernment provided money for it — $10 million over two years and $15 million a year after that — and named Kirby its first chairman.

Kirby spearheaded a 2006 Senate report on mental health andused his last weeks in office to campaign for a nationalstrategy to stop stigmatizing the mentally ill.

In a CBC News interview on Friday,Kirbysaidhehad a sister who overcame severe depression and learned that the mentally ill can face discrimination "in many ways worse than the disease itself."

Michael Kirby, a Liberal, spearheaded a Senate report on mental health. ((CBC))

One of his dreams, he said, is "ultimately getting to the point where you don't identify someone as living with a mental illness any more than you identify someone as living with high blood pressure, [and] where people accept that there are physical and mental illnesses and they should be treated alike."

Harper fleshed out the commission Friday with thenaming of the17 directors andeight advisory committee heads.

Among the directors are:

  • Andy Cox ofMilford Station, N.S., who works as a mental health patient advocate for children and youth in Halifax. He has bipolar disorder.
  • Jeannette Leblanc, of Moncton, a professor of nursing andmother of a child living with schizophrenia.
  • David Goldbloom, a Toronto psychiatrist and former physician-in-chief of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
  • Morris Rosenberg, the federal deputy health minister, and his counterparts from Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Harper stressed the scope of their task.

"We see the results ofmental health disorders, mental illness, everywhere — among the homeless on our streets; we see it in our workplaces among co-workers felled by stress or worse, and we see it in our families, where we become intimately acquainted with the pain and suffering it causes," he said.

"It's estimated that one in five Canadians will develop some sort of mental illness in his or her lifetime. Nearly one million are plagued with a severe or persistent disorder. It is now the fastest growing category of disability insurance in Canada."