At least two thirds of people living with a mental illness will not seek help because of the fear of being labelled as “unpredictable,” “crazy” or even “dangerous.” Stigma is a major barrier preventing many from getting the support they need. In 2009 the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) launched its international award-winning anti-stigma initiative Opening Minds (OM). It is the largest systematic effort in Canadian history to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. Rather than relying on traditional social marketing campaigns it adopted a unique approach targeting youth, healthcare providers, workplaces and the media.

OM has been using an evidence-based approach to identify effective anti-stigma programs and replicate them nationwide. HEADSTRONG (HS) is one of those innovative programs.  It empowers youth champions to tackle stigma in their high schools. In 2016 OM hosted the first summit for Indigenous youth in Calgary, Alberta. Since then, First Nations communities across Canada have been hosting HS Summits. We expect to reach 50-thousand First Nations youth through the cascade effect of the program.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) leads the development and dissemination of innovative programs and tools to support the mental health and wellness of Canadians. Through its unique mandate from the Government of Canada, the MHCC supports federal, provincial, and territorial governments as well as organizations in the implementation of sound public policy.