The Viceregal Lion
  1. The Governor General of Canada
  2. Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette
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Her Excellency Sharon Johnston - 14th Annual Inspiration Awards Gala

Ottawa, Friday, March 3, 2017


No one ever imagines he or she will be standing on a platform being recognized for inspiring people about mental health. But not imagining does not lessen the pride I feel tonight on receiving the Royal’s Inspiration award.

From the moment six years ago when I became a card-carrying member of Women for Mental Health, I have felt myself to be part of the Royal family.

In accepting this award, I want to thank all those on the ‘Sharon Team’ at the Royal and in the Governor General’s office who have provided me with the tools to learn about and advocate for mental health in our country and various parts of the world.

From coast to coast to coast, I have been privileged to witness innovative practices to improve mental health.

When it comes to the big picture of mental health awareness and stigma, the overall good news is that our military, public service and non-public workplaces are honestly addressing the reality that good people can get sick.

The stigma of admitting to depression or anxiety is on the wane.

However, there is still an elephant in the room, which is the fear that continues to exist towards those with serious mental illness. This association, which views people with mental illness as potentially violent or dangerous, has at least two negative effects.

One, it makes people afraid to get to know someone with mental illness or admit that it exists in their family.

And two, it makes those with mental illness less likely to come forward to get help, because they don’t want to be labelled as potentially dangerous.

Yet mental illness rarely leads to violence. Very few of those with serious mental illness pose any threat to others—it is the rare exception rather than the rule.

So let me end these remarks with a plea. I ask that every Canadian get to know someone with serious mental illness in our 150th anniversary.

You might find this person in your place of worship, sports team or school, athletic or book club or any place you happen to be.

People with serious mental illness have families, hobbies, talents, quirks and passions just like you and me. Let us all get to know each other, and that harmful and counterproductive fear will go away.

Thank you again for this honour. I will try to deserve it.