Last week CAMH (Centre For Addiction & Mental Health) was entrusted with the largest donation ever for mental health in the sum of 100 million dollars by an anonymous donor. CAMH is a teaching hospital as well as the world’s largest research hospital for mental health and addiction. CAMH services both children and adults alike through assessments, interventions, both inpatient and outpatient programs, group interactions, continuing care and family support, none of which would be made possible without the aid of funding, grants and donations.
CAMH has stated that the donation of 100 million dollars will go toward developing cures for psychiatric conditions that affect millions and millions of people around the globe each year. Their president and CEO, Dr. Catherine Zahn, says that the money will allow them to “foster research focused on understanding disease mechanisms, improving diagnosis, and new ways to predict, prevent and recover from mental illness.”
A donation of this magnitude is a defining moment for anyone who has ever been afflicted by any sort of mental illness whether it is themselves or a loved one. It proves that voices are being heard and that a very taboo, stigmatized and much avoided topic are finally being embraced instead of passed over. It is a demonstration that humankind is ready for change and ready for acceptance by putting hope back into a society that has been lost for so many individuals suffering from mental illness.
The Philanthropist who made this unprecedented, anonymous and beyond generous donation is just one of the millions of people who have been touched by the overwhelming grief and devastating impact that mental illness can cause on a person and their family. It is paving the way for much needed open dialogue and de-stigmatization. It is closing the enormous gap between donations that are normally made to other health-care related illnesses like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. There really is no way to describe the emotions that came over me when I first learned of this awe-inspiring gift, truly a gift made in good faith and with great confidence that an institution such as CAMH would take great care and consideration of.
CAMH first opened its doors over 150 years ago on Queen St (where its original location still remains today) and was known as the Provincial Lunatic Asylum. Over centuries and decades the name has been changed several times, each time becoming less and less denounced in nature, but still a place where society shunned and avoided talking about. When the hospital finally restructured in the late 1990’s and renamed once again to CAMH it became a safe environment filled with lots of aspiration, building upon its main goal of transforming the lives of mental illness sufferers through social change, education and recovery.
Over the past few years I have utilized several of CAMH’s services as many are offered through other hospitals and facilities in and around the Toronto area thanks to funding that is already in place, however, I have not come by it easily. I have talked in length about the lack of support available, the wait lists for government funded programs, facilities, doctors, hospital beds and therapy, all of which have greatly impacted my recovery. And lets not forget the burden I feel that I have put on my GP as each road block I hit, she is the one that is obligated to oversee my care, care that someone trained in mental health clearly should be facilitating.
So is it possible that we don’t only look to future research when strategically planning ways to use this incredible gift, but to maybe also consider taking a long hard look at the here and now. The here and now can build upon or strengthen more facilities, more bed availability and more programs; the here and now can access more therapy and proper resources for patients in dire need and the here and now can alleviate some pressure from untrained doctors or facilitators.
Either way, I along with so many mental illness sufferers, whether vocally or silently, are beyond grateful for this donation. Either way, 100 million thank-you’s will never be enough.