When it comes to changing attitudes around mental health in Canada, one of the key initiatives promises to be one that involves the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and local affiliates such as the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce.

Partnering with Canada’s Members of Parliament—including Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu—a series of events intended to begin the conversation around mental health and wellness began Friday with an event held at the Sarnia Riding Club.

Special guest speaker at Friday’s noon-hour event was Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, an agency funded by Health Canada that leads the development and dissemination of innovative programs and tools to support the mental health and wellness of Canadians.

Bradley, whose background is in nursing and public health administration, spoke to a group of about 40 at the Riding Club, emphasizing not only the importance of mental health awareness but how critical it is to take action.

“We need to turn ‘Let’s Talk’ into ‘Let’s Act,’” she said.

“If someone had a broken leg, we wouldn’t expect them to ignore that physical condition. And if someone has diabetes, we certainly wouldn’t say they just had a lazy pancreas.”

A number of Chamber directors were in attendance at Friday’s event. Pictured are, from left, Chamber third vice chair Kathleen Mundy, Chamber president and CEO Shirley de Silva, Louise Bradley, MP Marilyn Gladu, and Chamber past-chair Charles Fisher.

Bradley, as part of her presentation, challenged those in the room, including Bruce Hein, franchise owner of Express Employment Professionals, who also spoke briefly, about the need to examine what a healthy workplace should look like.

“We need to have expectations that are clearly set, with workloads that are appropriately managed, and an environment where civility and respect are encouraged throughout,” said Bradley.

Referencing her own personal story, one that included growing up in a number of foster homes, Bradley has said publicly that “It was only much later in life that I realized these adverse childhood experiences bred trauma… a word, and a concept, I didn’t know growing up.”

Eventually hospitalized at the time, Bradley found herself under the care of “a wonderful psychiatrist.”

On Friday, she said what was unusual in her experience was that she received any help at all.

Bradley said today she is committed to seeing that level of care for those experiencing mental health issues changed for the better.

“We have a long way to go,” said Bradley, adding that initiatives toward a more healthy workplace, one that’s free of bullying and the stigma that has existed around mental health are making a difference.

In Canada, some half a million people miss work every week due to a mental health problem or illness.

“What’s important to note is that it’s not the same half a million people every week,” said Bradley.

“We need to be reminded that we can all make a difference when it comes to improving mental health. This signature mental health event is meant to remind us that we can all make a difference. Whether it’s an employee having the courage to speak up about workplace bullying or a stretched-too-thin manager rethinking his or her approach, we all stand to benefit when workplace wellness is the rule—not the exception.”

MP Gladu said creating space for positive discussion on mental health issues at work will result in a better workforce and better communities across Canada.