HEADS UP! Community Mental Health Summit – Rationale

Heads Up! Mental Health Summit - Fresh Outlook Foundation

It's about change!

Fresh Outlook Foundation

WHY CHANGE? Because numbers don't lie.

Not surprisingly, research shows that our communities are increasingly impacted by mental health issues and their effects on citizens where they live, work, learn, and/or play. In fact, the statistics are staggering!


At least half of Canadians over 40 have experienced or will develop a mental illness. About 800,000 British Columbians currently struggle with mental health challenges or addictions. And more than 85,000 children and youth in BC have been diagnosed with mental disorders, with only one third of them getting the treatment they need.

It’s hard to imagine, but one in five children and youth in BC need mental health or substance use care. Picture that 20 percent this way: Up to five children in every BC classroom struggles with mental health challenges – everything from abuse-caused anxiety to the “bad” behaviour caused by ADHA, autism, and other neuro-developmental difficulties. Teachers struggle to meet the educational needs of these students, while parents battle for timely diagnoses, treatment, and systemic change to help prevent catastrophic outcomes such as poverty, unemployment, addiction, homelessness, and suicide.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) reports that, if nothing changes to address this and other mental health crises, there will be almost 9 million people living with mental illness by 2040. This represents a 31 percent increase from 2011, while the total Canadian population will only grow by 26 percent over that time.


And what about the numbers from an economic perspective? The financial burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated at more than $55 billion per year. In any given week, at least 500,000 Canadians are unable to work because of mental health challenges. Astonishingly, MHCC estimates that the cost of mental illness will grow more than six times over the next thirty years to a whopping $306 billion.

In short, the challenges are real and systemic change is needed now.

WHO? Change is a Shared Responsibility

As outlined by MHCC in its strategy for Changing Direction. Changing Lives., transformation “requires government at all levels, business, labour, civil society, health care leaders and individual citizens to work together.” At the Fresh Outlook Foundation, we couldn’t agree more!

WHAT? Conversations Are Key

In keeping with the MHCC recommendation that we make change by improving knowledge, mobilizing leadership, and fostering collaboration at all levels, the Fresh Outlook Foundation (FOF) is hosting the first in an ongoing series of gatherings called the HEADS UP! Community Mental Health Summit.

With a proven track record of designing and delivering highly acclaimed events that inspire community conversations for sustainable change, FOF will use learned invaluable event planning lessons to inform and inspire overall event strategy, agenda development, and robust community engagement.

With the support of granting organizations, event sponsors, donors, promotional partners, and volunteers, the 2020 Summit and various warm-up events will gather people from all sectors, ages, cultures, and genders to engage in vital conversations about mental health challenges, successes, and opportunities at the individual, family, workplace, and community scales.

This brand of community conversation is not only the “right thing to do,” it also inspires the most robust solutions as people from all walks of life bring their unique insights, ideas, passions, personalities, and influences to the table.

HOW? Focus on ‘Upstream’ Approaches

Too often, our response to high levels of need and demand is to call for more mental health services. Clearly there is a need for these ‘downstream’ services and support, and clearly the mental health and addictions sector has been under-funded in the health care system for decades.

But we seldom pay enough attention to the ‘upstream’ part of the equation:

  • Why are so many people needing mental health and addiction services in the first place?
  • What is happening in our communities and the wider society that may be contributing to the problem?
  • What can we achieve by going upstream to reduce the burden of mental health and addiction problems, and thus reduce the demand on services?
  • How do we create more mentally healthy communities?

At the Summit, we will first look at the barriers to upstream approaches we face as a society, and what we might do to reduce the burden of mental health and addiction problems and create more mentally healthy communities.

Then, we will look at better ways to meet the needs of those with mental health and addiction problems though the healthcare and social services systems.

OUTCOMES! Moving Forward Together

For the 2020 Summit, the primary post-event deliverable will be documentation and wide distribution of participants’ ideas for positive systemic and community change. Other short-term objectives are to build awareness about community mental health challenges, successes, and opportunities, and to foster connection between and among sectors, ages, cultures, and genders. Longer-term goals are to inform and inspire collaboration that expedites positive change while preventing the duplication of invaluable human and financial resources.

Relationships built and partnerships formed before, during, and following the 2020 event will inform and inspire program development for the 2021 and 2022 Summits.

Help us advance the conversation about mental health challenges, successes, and opportunities at the individual, family, workplace, and community scales.

We hope to see you May 12-14 in Kelowna!