Krista Benes, MA
Krista is the commission’s Director of Prevention and Promotion Initiatives and leads programs on suicide prevention, mental wellness, and life promotion. From grassroots, evidence-informed, capacity-building projects to national initiatives, her team is a key part of supporting MHCC efforts to build consensus and drive system transformation. 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 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 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.
Jason is delighted to bring his passion for equitable access to care to the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
In his role as Director of Stakeholder Relations, he leads an incredibly skilled team with a focus on media relations, government relations, events, strategic sponsorships, and patient engagement through the Commission’s networks of people with lived and living experience (Hallway Group, Youth Council).
Jason’s professional career includes recent roles at Ontario’s office of the Patient Ombudsman, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, the Canadian Mental Health Association (Ontario Division), and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
He holds a Master of Education in Adult Education and Community Development from the University of Toronto (OISE) and a Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television Arts from X University (Jason respectfully supports the Ryerson re-naming campaign in the spirit of reconciliation).
Micheal Pietrus is a Director with Opening Minds and Director of Mental Health First Aid Canada 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.
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 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 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. In her role as Director of Public Affairs, she leads a dynamic team that supports the written word, online presence, stakeholder relations and engagement activities of the MHCC.
Debra is currently an advisory board member and former COO of the Top Sixty Over Sixty, an organizational and workforce development consultancy. Debra is a strong advocate of diversity in its many forms.
Prior to joining the MHCC Debra was the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Canadian Optometrist Association, the Senior Director of Communications and Relations with VON Canada and the Senior Director of External Relations with the Canadian Pharmacists Association.