The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) was founded in 1918, back when we referred to mental health as mental hygiene. The Globe and Mail headline announcing its inception read, “$20,000 Secured for Institute: Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene Started in Mrs Dunlap’s Home.”

Among the initial board members, comprised mainly of medical professionals, were Sir Vincent Meredith, President, Bank of Montreal, and F.W. Molson, President of Molson’s Brewery. They each agreed to contribute $1000 each a year to the cause.

Since then, CMHA has endured, changed, and grown considerably: it is one of Canada’s oldest voluntary organizations, and its 11,000 volunteers provide services and supports to more than 1.3 million Canadians.

Currently celebrating its 100th birthday, CMHA was ahead by a century. Today, we know that 1 in 5 people in Canada will experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year, and by the age of 40, 50% of us will have, or will have experienced a mental health illness. One quarter of all deaths between 15-24 are suicides, making it a leading cause of death in Canada, and 1 in 20 people you know have an anxiety disorder (and 1 in 100 have some degree of schizophrenia).

The CMHA has branches across the country, who tailor their efforts and supports to the needs of the communities they operate in. Its local wing, CMHA-NL, has a lot to be proud of, and a lot planned for Mental Health Week 2018 (May 7th – 13th). Over the course of its existence, CMHA-NL has done vital work at the level of the individual and put many feathers in its cap in terms of broad-level betterment of our communities.

They have enhanced education programs for children and youth, expanded mental health programs, promoted and participated in partnerships to promote social and emotional learning in children and youth, and they even have a very unique Justice Program that operates out of Her Majesty’s Penitentiary. They also actively collaborate with various stakeholders for community events like Clara’s Big Ride, or their recent collaboration with the Western Health Authority in the development of a Seniors Mental Health Program.

To mark the 100th anniversary of CMHA, CMHA-NL is running a 100 communities challenge. It is contingent on 100 local municipalities signing up to host at least 1 special event this year, that will draw attention to mental health. Ultimately, the goal of the challenge is to expand CMHA-NL’s services into more communities in our province, and get more provincial involvement with mental health so we can improve mental health services.

There are 4 events for a town to choose from, and the event details are listed on their website. They include participating in Mental Health Awareness Week, by lighting up local landmarks in green throughout the week, taking part in Ride Don’t Hide in June, a Community Swim for Mental Health in August, and/or September’s Painting a Picture for Mental Health.

As communities take the pledge, CMHA-NL has been thanking them on social media, with fun posts. As the call for communities to participate says, “Although our province is small in population, we all know the strength of the character in the souls of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We believe we know how to come together and make change a real possibility.”