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Remarks by Louise Bradley, President and CEO, Mental Health Commission of Canada

at the Emerging Adults Consensus Conference Ottawa, ON

Monday, November 2, 2015


Good morning everyone.

We are honoured to be gathered on traditional Algonquin territory. Thank you to Elder Claudette Commanda for your warm welcome.

Bonjour à tous.

C’est un honneur pour nous d’être rassemblés sur des terres algonquines ancestrales.

Merci à l’aînée Claudette Commanda pour l’accueil chaleureux qu’elle nous a réservé.

It is a pleasure to be in such good company; in particular I would like to acknowledge Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, who we are delighted is joining us today.

This conference has been a long time in the making.

And it’s none too soon.

Tackling the issue of how to treat emerging adults facing mental health problems is no small task.

I don’t want to stand up here and deliver bad news; but I’ve worked in the system long enough to know we are dealing with a really big challenge.

It’s complex and complicated. It’s complex because it’s not easy to navigate the system.

It’s complicated because the needs of young people are so diverse.


Ce n’est pas une mince tâche de s’attaquer à la problématique entourant le traitement des adultes émergents aux prises avec des problèmes de santé mentale.

Mon intention n’est pas de transmettre de mauvaises nouvelles. Toutefois, j’ai travaillée assez longtemps dans le système de santé pour comprendre à quel point cet enjeu est immense.

Il est à la fois complexe et compliqué. Complexe parce qu’il n’est pas facile de naviguer à l’intérieur du système. Et compliqué parce que les besoins des jeunes sont tellement diversifiés.

Add to this the reality of young people needing forensic intervention.

Compound it with delicate neurological and social development…

The end result is a group of people who are in dire need of specific, individualized care.

That’s not going to happen today. Or even next month, or next year. Because it’s a huge undertaking.

But this conference is an important step in the right direction.

It’s an opportunity to put pen to paper and start thinking about how we get this right.

One way we “get it right” is to collaborate with the right people. In particular, thanks are owed to our two external advisory groups – one a dedicated group of emerging adults – the other comprised of leading mental health experts. They have helped to map out the themes and policy outcomes we’ll be focusing on.

Another way to get started on the right footing is to invite the best people to the table.


That’s why I am so delighted to see policy makers, researchers and mental health organizations represented here.

Even more heartening, we’ve broadened the tent beyond the usual suspects. Today we have with us representatives across sectors – justice, addictions, education.

Un autre moyen de partir du bon pied est d’inviter les personnes les plus qualifiées à la table de discussion.

C’est pourquoi je suis absolument ravie de la qualité des décideurs, chercheurs et organismes de promotion de la santé mentale qui sont représentés ici.

Plus encourageant encore, nous avons élargi notre cercle au-delà des acteurs habituels.

Aujourd’hui, notre groupe compte des représentants de tous les secteurs, de la justice à l’éducation en passant par la lutte contre les dépendances.

Most importantly, we have young people, as well as their caregivers and families.

This conference is for, and about, you.

For far too long, young Canadians have been given the short shrift when it comes to mental health care. I’ve seen this first-hand.

A good continuum of care doesn’t shunt someone from youth services to the adult system without as much as a “see you later.”

The risk is far too great.


As things stand now, more than half of emerging adults drop out of the system of care at exactly the time when good care can have the greatest impact.

Without the right services, at the right time, everything from health to employment outcomes are compromised.

Since our creation in 2007, youth mental health has been a Commission priority.

These transformative years merit special attention.

That brings me to the nature of this conference. I know everyone here shares my excitement about the unique format.

Depuis la création de la Commission, en 2007, la santé mentale des jeunes constitue l’une de ses priorités.

Cette période de transformation mérite qu’on lui accorde une attention spéciale.

Ce qui m’amène à la nature de cette conférence. Et je crois que tout le monde ici présent partage mon enthousiasme quant au format unique qu’elle prendra.

This conference is valuable because it will provide concrete recommendations founded in the thoughts and information we share over the next couple of days.

This work is an integral part of achieving the vision laid out in Changing Directions, Changing Lives; The Mental Health Strategy for Canada.

We know we need a flexible responsive system. And we need a full continuum of care:

from universal prevention and promotion to the most intensive level of care for that small group with the greatest needs.


As one young person said, “There are no intermediate steps between sitting at home alone and going to the hospital in crisis.”

That being said, I think it’s critical to point out that the gaps we are talking about are systemic failures.

No one would argue the system is in desperate need of an overhaul. But I want to underscore that the many dedicated individuals working within that system are doing their best under extremely challenging circumstances.

I worked with young people in transition from child to adult services. I saw their struggles first-hand.

And, like my colleagues, I gave one hundred and ten percent in an effort to help them.

J’ai travaillé avec des jeunes qui faisaient la transition entre les services pour enfants et les services destinés aux adultes. J’étais aux premières loges pour assister à leurs


Et, tout comme mes collègues, je ne ménageais aucun effort pour leur venir en aide.

But the design of the system is inherently flawed. So no matter how hard we worked, young people still slipped through the cracks, or didn’t get the specialized help they needed.

In order to give today’s young people the best chance, we need to build a bridge – a bridge supported by an integrated, accessible and responsive system.


I am so glad that ALL of you are here today to help us do this. And I am doubly glad that we are in such good company.

It is a true honour and a privilege to introduce a very special guest.

Her Excellency Sharon Johnston understand the pressing need to address mental health issues among young people.

Her compassion and advocacy, and that of her husband, Governor General David

Johnston, have helped put our broader agenda on the map. We are truly fortunate that she is here with us today.

I know that with Her Excellency’s help, and your input, we will work constructively to change lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would now like to welcome Her Excellency, Sharon Johnston, to the podium.

Thank you.

Mesdames et messieurs, j’aimerais maintenant céder la parole à Son Excellence madame Sharon Johnston.



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