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A worker walks through the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Emergency Department in Toronto, Tuesday November 4, 2014The Globe and Mail

Sandi Treliving is a director of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Foundation. Jim Treliving is an entrepreneur, businessman and author of Decisions, Making the Right Ones, Righting the Wrong Ones

More than seven million Canadians will experience a mental illness this year. The impact can be devastating to individuals, friends, family and communities. But there is growing reason for hope: Hope for greater scientific understanding of the causes, for more consistent and attainable treatment and for broader social acceptance to break down the stigma that prevents people from getting the care they need.

It all starts with open dialogue and improved understanding, along with recognition and celebration of those individuals in our community who are most influencing change in this area and giving us new reasons for hope every day. This is why we have agreed to be the national chairs for 150 Leading Canadians for Mental Health, an exciting celebration of 150 Canadians across the country making a difference in mental health.

Through this project, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) will convene a national selection committee and invite Canadians from all walks of life to submit nominations of people devoting their lives to those experiencing mental illness because they believe the status quo isn't good enough.

Like most Canadians, we have seen both sides of mental illness. As a young RCMP officer, Jim witnessed its impact and has carried those memories throughout his life – vowing to bring change and hope to those affected by debilitating and often untreated mental illness. Sandi wanted to be a part of change for awareness, treatment, care and diagnosis after experiencing severe mental illness within her family and becoming a volunteer at CAMH.

More recently, we have seen the other side of mental illness. We have been inspired by powerful stories of recovery and personal triumph. We have seen families grow stronger because they would not give up hope for a loved one. These families believed meaningful recovery was possible – and they were right. Because of the loss we've felt and the strength we've seen we are committed to making a meaningful transformation in how we deal with mental health in Canada.

We are encouraged as we stand beside so many wonderful families and individuals who share this same commitment. We are awed by brilliant scientists who know the world is counting on them to better understand how to prevent and treat these illnesses. We are energized by those who speak freely about mental illness because we see how these conversations help break down the stigma that prevents people from getting the care they need. We have such deep admiration for those on the front lines of mental health, committed to helping people live healthier lives.

Consider 150 Leading Canadians for Mental Health the continuation of a national conversation about the exciting work being done right now – and right here in Canada – making a difference in mental illness. It's a celebration of how far we've come without forgetting how far we have yet to go if we're to create a mental-health system of which we can be truly proud and on which every Canadian can depend.

You will get to know these 150 Canadians. You will see what real recovery looks like in the lives of those with mental illness. You will learn about exciting breakthroughs – from simple changes in approach to technological advances that revolutionize possibility. You will be inspired by their vision. You will appreciate their creativity, their passion and their commitment.

We will invite all Canadians to nominate someone they know is making a difference, so that all of us can recognize and celebrate the breakthroughs happening right here at home in Canada.

While we celebrate Canada's 150th birthday, let's also make this the year for mental health.

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