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Krista Benes, MA

Krista Benes, MA

Director, Strategic Initiatives

Krista is the commission’s Director, Strategic Initiatives. Krista is also the Canada Liaison for the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership, a collaborative working to spread innovation and best practice and improve mental health and addiction services around the globe.

Krista joined the commission in 2016 with previous experience in research and the delivery of community-based mental health supports. Since then, she has led initiatives in workplace mental health and mental health and substance use health, including 40 research projects exploring the intersection between cannabis and mental health. Krista has also led national research projects, facilitated the uptake of promising practices through knowledge exchange initiatives, developed practical tools and resources, and engaged stakeholders across the county to better support those who are underserved and overlooked.

Wendy Hepburn

Wendy Hepburn

Director, Strategic Initiatives

Wendy Hepburn joined the office of the President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada in 2019, where she worked to advance strategic partnerships with external stakeholders, develop an international strategy, and served as the Canadian Liaison for the International Initiative for Mental Health Leadership to improve mental health and addictions services.  Wendy played a core role in the framing of the Commission’s strategic plan Answering the Call, and lead development of the resulting operational plan. In addition, she worked to advance the Commission’s efforts to obtain charitable status, and spearheaded the launch of an equity, diversity, and inclusion engagement strategy for the Commission.

Wendy previously worked with the Privy Council Office, Treasury Board Secretariat, and Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.  She holds degrees in political science and Canadian studies, and is a dedicated, if slow long-distance runner, volunteer doula, and supporter of the Parkdale Food Centre.

Sandra Koppert

Director, Mental Health Advancement

Sandra has extensive experience in strategic planning, outreach and promotion, and stakeholder relations within the national non-profit health sector and research consulting. During her time at the MHCC, she has developed strategies and led projects to promote awareness and facilitate action on psychological health and safety in workplaces across Canada. Among these projects was leading the national By Health, For Health Collaborative, a group of health leaders seeking to advance workplace mental health in health-care settings. Under her leadership, the MHCC championed the development, release, and ongoing promotion and uptake of the National Standard of Canada for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students. Sandra also oversees a range of other population-based initiatives related to the justice system, older adults, and youth.

Micheal Pietrus

Director, Opening Minds

Micheal Pietrus is a Director with Opening Minds at the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC). He has led the Commission’s anti-stigma initiative, Opening Minds, since its inception in 2009. Under his leadership, Opening Minds became the largest systematic effort to reduce the stigma of mental illness in Canadian history.

In 2015, Michael was recognized for his work when Opening Minds received the Innovator Award at the 7th Together Against Stigma Conference in San Francisco. He has presented on his team’s research and anti-stigma and training programs at conferences around the world, including Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Micheal is a co-founder and co-chair of the Global Anti-stigma Alliance, which is composed of more than 20 international organizations working to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

He was appointed to the World Health Organization’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Mental Health, Brain Health and Substance Use. STAG reports directly to the Director-General of WHO. Its mandate is to advise WHO on overall global policies and strategies.

Nitika Rewari

Director, Prevention and Promotion Initiatives

Nitika is the Commission’s Director of Prevention and Promotion Initiatives and leads programs and initiatives that are focused on suicide prevention, mental wellness, and life promotion. From grass-roots, evidence-informed, capacity-building projects to national initiatives, the Commission is striving to build consensus and drive system transformation.

Nitika has been with the Commission since 2013 and has led several national and international initiatives in the areas of workplace mental health, student mental health, employment for people living with serious mental illness, and suicide prevention. Nitika has extensive experience in strategic planning, program management, stakeholder relations, program evaluation, and knowledge exchange.

Nitika has earned a Master of Science in Biotechnology from Northwestern University in Chicago as well as a Bachelor of Science from the University of Toronto. She is also a certified health executive and a project management professional. Nitika currently sits on the board of three organizations, namely, Canadian Mental Health Association – Ontario, Frayme, and SOCH Mental Health.

Vicky Walker

Director, Organizational Performance

In her current role, Vicky leads organization-wide efforts to ensure that performance management and quality improvement programs are developed and managed using a data driven focus. She provides the strategic and tactical direction for the performance management system and ensures alignment of operations with the Strategic Plan.

Vicky also provides leadership for the Provincial-Territorial Advisory Group on Mental Health and Substance Use. This group provides vital insights for the work that MHCC does.

Prior to joining the MHCC Vicky had a proven track record at the national and regional level developing and managing balanced scorecards, evaluating and reporting on organizational performance, managing projects, and collaborating with stakeholders.

Vicky has earned a Master of Health Administration from the University of Ottawa and is a Project Management Professional.

Nicholas Watters

Nicholas Watters

Director, Access to Quality Mental Health Services

Nicholas leads multiple MHCC portfolios aimed at ensuring that those living in Canada have access to equitable, culturally safe, appropriate, stigma free, and recovery-oriented mental health services and supports — when, where, and how they choose.

He is also part of the eMHIC (eMental Health International Collaborative) Global Leadership Council and a member of Health Canada’s Digital Health Equity working group. In 2022, Nicholas received eMIC’s Lifetime Achievement Award for e-mental health development, implementation, and forward-thinking leadership. Prior to joining the MHCC in 2011, he was the Senior Advisor of Knowledge Transfer and Communications at the Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada.

Nicholas holds bachelor degrees in Political Science and Communication Studies from the University of Windsor and a Master of Business Administration from the Australian Institute of Business.

Debra Yearwood

Director, Marketing and Communications

Debra is a senior communications, marketing and government-relations professional with more than twenty years as an executive in the health sector. She has extensive experience in social marketing, advocacy and crisis communications.

Debra sits on the board of Health Partners and is an advisory board member and former COO of the Top Sixty Over Sixty. Debra is a strong advocate of diversity in its many forms. She is a regular contributor to The Catalyst magazine and has just completed the first draft of her book with Helen Hirsh Spence on maximizing potential in later life. Debra obtained her Certified Health Executive designation in 2022 (conferred by the Canadian College of Health Leaders).

Prior to joining the MHCC Debra was the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Canadian Optometrists Association, the Senior Director of Communications and Relations with VON Canada and the Senior Director of External Relations with the Canadian Pharmacists Association.