Speaking Notes for
President and CEO Mental Health Commission of Canada
E-mental health demonstration project results launch
September 9, 2019
St. John’s, Newfoundland
Good Evening Everyone;
It’s a pleasure, as always, to be back home in Newfoundland and Labrador. And doubly so because we are here to celebrate the results of a game-changing way to deliver mental health care.
I first dipped my toes in the vast pool of knowledge that is e-mental health about a decade ago. I went to New Zealand and was wowed by the strides they were making. They made accessing services as simple as making a phone call or logging online.
They were ahead of the curve – engaging popular figures to break down stigma and normalize help-seeking. I remember seeing an avatar of a famous New Zealand footballer talking about his own struggles and thinking…they’re onto something here!
And while I had a sense that e-mental health was ushering in a new era, I couldn’t have predicted the sea-change that’s happened in just ten years.
But someone else could.
That someone is Anil Thapliyal.
Anil is here with us this evening. He was the driving force behind New Zealand’s ground-breaking work in e-mental health. But like the best innovators and entrepreneurs, Anil’s generosity of spirit brought him around the globe to our island home more than once.
At the same time as Anil was overhauling New Zealand’s approach to delivering care, he was sharing his hard-won, evidence-based knowledge with other jurisdictions, including the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
It took us a while to catch on, but I’m so proud and happy that Anil is here with us to see just how much things can progress when the tides turn in our favour.
I’d like to share a personal story with you – it may help to explain my passion for this project, and my conviction that it’s going to change lives.
When I was 12, I was hospitalized under the care of a child psychiatrist. He was able to divine the shambles that was my home life – bouncing in and out of foster care. He understood my trauma and how it was shaping my responses in a way that seemed super human. Especially because the only word I knew to describe my situation was despair.
The point is, I got what help there was available at the time – crisis care in the very short term. But my needs were high. And I was dispatched after three weeks feeling hopeful, only to come crashing down with no ongoing supports.
Had I had access to the kind of care we’re seeing with Dr. Peter Cornish’s Stepped Care 2.0, I’m pretty sure my recovery trajectory would have been smoother.
I like to think that if I’d had access to cognitive behavioural therapy on my phone, the option of walking into a single session appointment, or the capacity to follow up as needed with my provider, I wouldn’t have felt so adrift.
Stepped Care 2.0 is a brilliant way to harness resources and allocate appropriately.
As Dr. Cornish himself explains, a bad day isn’t the same thing as clinical depression. Given the scarcity of our precious mental health human resources, we need to ensure their expertise is meted out in circumstances where it’s warranted.
To my way of thinking, embracing e-mental health is a no-brainer. We can’t expect to make progress by funding the same old services, which aren’t currently meeting the demand.
That’s where Stepped Care 2.0 comes in. It’s disrupting our current service delivery in favour of something different – shaking up the inadequate status quo.
We live in a society where people often find it difficult to get mental health services. Yet, 80 percent of us are online…E-mental health makes so much sense. But it’s not widely used in Canada – and my hope is that Stepped Care 2.0 will change that.
We believe so strongly in the importance of investing in e-mental health because the services aren’t just convenient and accessible…they are often just as effective as face-to-face treatments.
If we don’t make investments in game-changing innovation, help for mental illness will remain a privilege, well outside the grasp of some of the most vulnerable populations. Those of you here today, including Minister Haggie, are making sure that doesn’t happen.
Addressing mental illness in the modern age will require a truly 21st century solution. Levelling the playing field between physical and mental illnesses will demand progressive thought, and, more importantly, progressive action.
And it will require heeding the voices of lived experience who are sharing their stories here today, and increasingly demanding their place at decision-making tables. They have a tremendous amount to teach clinicians, policy makers and national organizations.
If we commit to learning from one another, and apply that knowledge, there will be no end to the progress we can achieve. To that end, I am delighted to introduce the brains behind Stepped Care 2.0. In circles such as this, Dr. Peter Cornish needs no introduction.
Dr. Cornish recognizes that our system needs transformation. But he’s in the unique position of being able to carry out that goal. Dr. Cornish’s Stepped Care 2.0 is a model that’s responsive, flexible and empowering for patients. And I’m so proud that our home province is the birth place of an innovation with the capacity to reduce, if not eliminate, barriers to care.
Please help me welcome Dr. Peter Cornish.