Jim and Sandi Treliving have teamed up with CAMH to search for 150 inspiring Canadians.
When Sandi Treliving was 10 years old, her older brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia. She knows first-hand the impact that mental illness can have on a family.
It’s been an experience that has defined Sandi as one of Canada’s leading mental health advocates alongside her husband Jim, an investor on Dragon’s Den and owner of the Boston Pizza chain. The Trelivings have been partners with CAMH for the last eight years, serving as board members for the last five and working on campaigns to raise awareness, end stigma, fundraise, and improve treatment. Now, they are calling on Canadians to nominate someone in their lives who is working for the same kind of positive change for CAMH’s 150 Leading Canadians for Mental Health—a new initiative that celebrates those who are making a difference in mental health.
It’s a personal battle for the husband and wife team. Jim, a former RCMP officer, remembers when mental health patients were called prisoners because they had to be hospitalized. “I thought there were better ways to deal with it.” Many years later, while he was on holiday, Jim received a message that his bright 15-year-old nephew had died by suicide.
“None of us had picked up on it. It was devastating,” he said.
Today, Jim and Sandi are leaders in the conversation about issues with mental health. “The more that we talk about it, the more people who aren’t recognizing what’s happening in their homes become aware of it,” says Sandi. Sharing their own stories, along with their work with CAMH, has given them access to communities who feel safe opening up to them about similar experiences. “Mental health is not hiding anymore,” says Jim. For him, the proof is in the meaningful conversations he has had with people in hospitals, in the workplace, and on the streets.
It’s a gradual process, says Jim, but the results are becoming more visible by the day. Where at one time, mental health institutions looked like prison-like hospitals, now places like CAMH look like warm places for treatment and recovery. Part of this change is attributed to change-makers like the Trelivings, who funded a gymnasium and fitness facility—what Sandi calls “a gift from us to us.”
The Trelivings believe they are just starting to make a difference. Last New Year’s Eve, Jim Treliving delivered a bunch of pizzas to some patients receiving treatment at CAMH. “It was the most amazing thing feeling that it was no different to any other party I’d go to,” says Jim. “We all had a good time and that’s what it was all about.”
This year, the Trelivings are proud co-chairs of the CAMH-led program to recognise 150 Leading Canadians for Mental Health. “We’re asking Canada to tell us about a difference maker is in their local community or network,” says Sandi. “We know there are people that are so passionate and so giving when it comes to mental health. We hope they’re the ones that will direct the process for our committee.”
Open until July 1, 2017, Canadians are encouraged to nominate anyone they think is making an impact in the mental health space. These can be doctors, teachers, researchers, volunteers, or caregivers. “There are so many wonderful stories of hope across the country,” says Sandi. “That’s what we want to share, that’s what we want to learn from, and that’s the story we want to tell the rest of the country.” The program is hoping to showcase those who have made waves through research, philanthropy, advocacy, social change, and inspiration, in any capacity—local or national.
“From an advocacy standpoint, we really need a strong mandate of what care and responsible mental health care looks like for this country and then ultimately, Canada has the opportunity to be a global leader,” says Sandi. To achieve this, the movement needs champions to come forward to gain momentum and build up to a leadership conference next year that will inspire meaningful change for people who need care.
“It’s about every Canadian getting behind mental health,” says Jim.
Nominate a Canadian who is making a difference in mental health, here.