This is the first mental health strategy for Canada. Its release marks a significant milestone in the journey 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.
Although there are several population groups and policy areas for which the federal government has important mental health responsibilities, the organization and delivery of health care, social services and education in Canada largely fall to provincial and territo-rial governments. Despite the fact that pan-Canadian initiatives could help all jurisdictions to improve mental health outcomes, planning documents that address these matters from the perspective of the country as a whole are rare. Jurisdictional challenges have been compounded by the stigma that has kept discussion of mental health issues out of the public arena for far too long.
Changing Directions, Changing Lives is the culmination of many years of hard work and advocacy by people across the country. A key driver behind its development has been the testimony of thousands of people living with mental health problems and illnesses. In increasing numbers they have found the courage to speak publicly about their personal experiences and the many obstacles they face in obtaining the help and support they need from an underfunded and fragmented mental health system. Family members have echoed this assessment while pointing to the many challenges that they also confront. Service providers (within the mental health system as well as outside of it), researchers, and policy experts have added their voice to the chorus calling for much-needed change. They have all had a voice in the development of this Strategy