Her Excellency Sharon Johnston - Masquerade for Mental Health Concert
Rideau Hall, Saturday, September 9, 2017
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Tonight, we are gathering on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. Let us all feel the spirit of Indigenous ancestors to whom we owe so much.
That mental health and well-being were important was imbedded in my heart around six years of age. I brought every last suffering soul home to my mother to fix them. Her cryptic reply to my requests was always, “Sharon, I’m a working single mom. Someone should be looking after me!”
World Suicide Prevention Day is tomorrow, so it is timely that this evening we are raising awareness about mental health. Over 40 organizations dedicated to persons with mental health problems have come from as far away as Nunavut. David and I just returned from this territory.
Statistics show that one in five Canadians will be affected by a mental health problem. There is hope, however, evidenced by the thousands of people at Rideau Hall tonight willing to remove their mask, a symbol of the stigma faced by those with mental health issues.
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I have asked that every Canadian get to know someone with a mental health problem. They may find this person in their sports club, book or bridge club, place of faith or work. They are you and me, with a mask on. Let them take it off and you will discover someone worth knowing. He or she will have family, talents, quirks and passions just like you and me.
Over the past seven years, I have had the good fortune to witness first-hand the great advances in mental health care in the areas of homelessness, youth suicide, emerging adults, Indigenous peoples and just about every suffering part of society. The mental health organizations that are here tonight have shown the extraordinary work they do across the country.
In closing, let me thank from the bottom of my heart the performers, the organizations that made this masquerade possible, the volunteers and those persons who have come from coast to coast to coast to show what they do for those with mental health issues.