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Lieutenant Governor launches mental health and addiction initiative

October 5, 2011

Edmonton…. The Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction was introduced today at a gathering of representatives from provincial mental health organizations, individuals with lived experience and Alberta business and community leaders.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction will consist of experts in the field, community leaders and those with lived experience. The Circle will work to:• Reduce stigma related to mental illness and addiction;
• Further public knowledge of the topic;
• Highlight and encourage positive steps being taken to improve the lives of Albertans of all ages who are affected by all types of mental illness; and
• Encourage collaboration among various Alberta organizations and initiatives that deal with mental health and addiction.

His Honour, Col, (Ret’d) the Honourable Donald S. Ethell will serve as founding Patron of the Circle. “Through my own experiences with post traumatic stress disorder I’ve seen the stigma and misunderstanding that can surround the issue,” says Lieutenant Governor Ethell. “I’ve also come to appreciate all those across our province who are working to deliver valued mental health programs and to encourage recovery, hope and understanding. This Circle is intended to shine a light on the progress we’re making and encourage even greater success in the future.”

Circle programs will include annual awards to encourage and recognize Albertans who demonstrate commitment, passion and ingenuity in their work to improve the lives of those living with mental illness and addiction. Other aspects of this unique initiative to be developed in the future will include opportunities, such as public lectures, seminars and round table discussions, so that Albertans can learn more about mental health and addiction and their impact on the well-being of individuals and society as a whole.

“Mental illness doesn’t discriminate,” said LGen. (Ret’d) the Honourable Senator Romeo Dallaire, who shared his personal experience and insight as the keynote speaker for the launch. “It affects people across our nation, of all ages and all walks of life. I applaud the Lieutenant Governor for his service as a champion of the cause and I hope that this promising Alberta initiative inspires others across Canada to follow suit.”

Information about the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction, including details of the award program, is at

Attachment: Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction – Members’ bios
Attachment: Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction -Awards program


Media inquiries may be directed to:

Janet Resta
Communications Officer
Office of the Lieutenant Governor

Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction – Members’ bios

Dennis Anderson (Co-Chair) has, for more than 40 years, been a volunteer, advocate and leader in the mental health field. He was founding Chair of the Alberta Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health and founder of the Chimo Project which uses animals in the treatment of those suffering from mental illness. Dennis has been a provincial Cabinet Minister and is a Police Commissioner and Honorary Consul General for Thailand. Dennis has received various decorations and awards for his work in mental health and the community and has published mental health and other articles and books.

Fay Orr (Co-Chair) has been a member of the Alberta Public Service for 23 years. Her current duties as Alberta’s fourth Mental Health Patient Advocate include providing information and assistance to patients, investigating complaints, advising policy makers, and promoting awareness of rights related to issues in mental health. Fay has also served Albertans as deputy minister of numerous Government of Alberta ministries including Children and Youth Services; Tourism, Parks, Recreation and Culture; Community Development; and Government Services. Prior to becoming a Deputy Minister, Fay was Managing Director of the Public Affairs Bureau and Communications Director for the Office of the Premier.

Robert Campbell is a past President of the National Board of Directors, Canadian Mental Health Association as well as the Alberta Division of CMHA. He served as President of the Alberta Public Health Association and was bestowed with an Honourary Lifetime Membership. He is the former Director of Population Health for the Chinook Health Region and was an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Health Sciences at the University of Lethbridge. Robert served as Chair of the Chinook Regional Mental Health Advisory Committee and is currently the Chair of the Community and Social Development Committee for the City of Lethbridge and chairs the Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination subcommittee.

Jodi Cohen has worked at the City of Calgary for 31 years. For the past two years she has been working in Human Resources on Your Mind @ Work, an employee mental health strategy. Previously, Jodi was actively involved with the Canadian Mental Health Association. She served repeatedly as a member of the Board of Directors of the Calgary Region, the Alberta Division, and CMHA National. Having been touched by mental illness in her family, Jodi is well aware of the impact and consequences of stigma. She is particularly passionate about enhancing the awareness and public education in the area of mental health.

Germaine M. Dechant is the Chief Executive Officer of CASA Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health, an organization devoted to advancing the mental health of infants, children and adolescents through family-centered clinical services, education, research and advocacy. Germaine brings forty years of experience in health care services, twenty of those years in senior administrative and executive roles. She holds a Masters of Health Services Administration, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, as well as Governance certification from the Rotman School of Business in Toronto. She is a leader and strong advocate for children who need mental health services and their families.

Margaret King has been a member of the Alberta Public Service for 20 years, and is currently Assistant Deputy Minister, Community and Population Health, with Alberta Health and Wellness. Support for services relating to addiction and mental health is a major focus of this position, and has included the development and now the implementation of the recently released Alberta Addiction and Mental Health Strategy and Five Year Action Plan.

Austin Mardon is a mental health advocate who has lived with schizophrenia in his family, and personally, since he was 30 years old. He served in the Reserves in Lethbridge and was a field member on a NSF NASA meteorite expedition 170 km from the south pole before he became ill. He finished a distance learning PhD in geography. He has been in the local and national media frequently regarding mental health issues. Austin is a Member of the Order of Canada, has served on several boards, and has volunteered with several mental health agencies. He has authored a number of books and over 200 articles. Recently, Austin received the Medal of Honour from the Canadian Medical Association. He serves as a public member on the Alberta College of Social Workers and the Premier’s Council on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Scott McKeen is a long-time Edmonton journalist who continues to write and speak publicly about his experience with depression. Scott joined the Edmonton Journal in 1985. Over the years, he reported in a number of news beats before being appointed as the newspaper’s civic affairs columnist. Scott has been honoured with a number of awards and citations over his career, including a prize from the Canadian Mental Health Association for his Brainstorms series on mental illness. Scott is now a communications consultant and writer.

Alice Mohr is a psychologist and the clinical leader of the Operational Trauma and Stress Support Center Program at the Edmonton Garrison, Mental Health Services. She has worked for many years in the field of trauma in Southern Alberta and exclusively in combat trauma for the last ten years. She has had the opportunity to work with soldiers in many phases of their deployment including preparation, decompression, and post deployment assessment and treatment. She serves on the National Committee for the Standardization of the Assessment and Treatment of Operational Stress Injuries in the Canadian Forces. She has a great interest in ensuring that families of injured soldiers receive support and has developed workshops for families attempting to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Gordon Mowat is a psychiatrist who has lived and worked in Edmonton for the past thirty years. Much of his practice is with people with severe and persistent mental illness, both at Alberta Hospital and the 108th Street clinic. For the past twenty years he has made brief monthly visits to Inuvik Regional Hospital, and the communities of the Western Arctic, as their consulting psychiatrist. He is on the board of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta and a clinical lecturer at the University of Alberta.

Tom Shand is currently the Executive Director of the Alberta Division of the Canadian Mental Health Association as well as Chair of the Alberta Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health. In these capacities, he advocates for improved mental health services for Albertans as well as building strong linkages for mental health between government, community and professional organizations. For the past five years, he has participated in a great number of committees and consultations relating to mental health and mental illness.

Jeff Sych is a Registered Psychologist in the Province of Alberta, and has over 10 years of clinical experience in the addiction and mental health fields. Jeff has experience working with individuals, couples, and groups in a variety of settings, including: in-inpatient and out-patient psychiatric, community addiction and mental health, as well as in private practice. Jeff is Manager of the Alberta Health Services, Edmonton Operational Stress Injury Clinic, and is an active member of the Veterans Affairs Canada, National Network of Operational Stress Injury Clinics.


Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction – Awards program

One component of the Lieutenant Governor’s Circle on Mental Health and Addiction is a new annual awards program to encourage and recognize Albertans who have shown commitment, passion and ingenuity in improving the lives of those living with mental illness and/or addiction.

The awards are now open for public nominations. Nomination forms are available at The date of the first awards ceremony in 2012 has not yet been finalized however details will be posted on the website as more information becomes available.

The Awards:

True Grit: This award is to be presented to an individual who has made use of mental health and/or addiction services; inspired others to get help in management or recovery of mental illness or substance abuse, or who has dedicated her/himself to furthering mental health and addiction programs.

Criteria: For this award an individual who has faced a mental health or addiction challenge may be nominated. Acknowledging the strength, determination and “grit” in overcoming obstacles will be key in determining the merit of this award. The nominee may well have assisted in the recovery of others or helped to further the objectives of a mental health or addiction organization. Finally, anyone who has sought to reduce stigma or helped to improve public awareness and understanding may also be nominated.

True Compassion: The True Compassion Award is to be given to an individual who has provided extraordinary guidance in effecting the improvement of mental heath and addiction programs or treatments.

Criteria: An individual volunteer, practitioner, administrator or other person involved with mental health and/or addiction who may be part of a public, private, or non-governmental organization may qualify for this award. Addressing and improving understanding, while aiming to remove the stigma associated with mental illness and/or addiction is one commitment that will make an individual eligible. Those who assist in helping individuals or groups to achieve progress in mental health or addiction recovery may also qualify for consideration. A life-long commitment beyond the nominee’s occupational expectations will be an important characteristic valued by the Awards Committee.

True Leadership: This award will be presented to a non-governmental organization, non profit, business or private enterprise for providing exceptional leadership in improving mental health and addiction programs or treatment.

Criteria: For this award non-governmental organizations that have been leaders in improving mental health and addiction treatment programs and that have worked to address and counter stigmatization, improve treatment, or develop a mentally healthy program will be recognized. Organizations may be nominated if their first purpose is not to deal with mental health and addictions, but that have developed a program or programs that speak to these issues.

True Service: A public body that has shown itself to be of excellent service to the improvement of mental health and/or addiction reduction will be considered for this category.

Criteria: This award will be granted to a national, provincial or civic agency, branch department or other entity that has made an outstanding contribution to the improvement of mental health and/or addiction. Whether providing services or programs to Albertans, this award may given to those who have spoken to an underserved part of our community (this may include race, class, gender and/or culture). A national body located outside of the province but that has made a significant contribution within Alberta may be considered.

True Imagination: Innovation in improving mental health and addiction recovery is the cornerstone of this category and the award will be given to the individual or group, public, private or non-governmental organization that has initiated imaginative approaches to the improvement of mental health and reduction of addiction through treatment or programs under her/his or their purview.

Criteria: Designed to stimulate innovation and imagination in improving the lives of individuals who face mental health and/or addiction issues, this award will be given to an individual or group that has developed imaginative new ways to reduce stigma, promote understanding, enable treatment, or institute projects or programs in either or both areas. Here “idea-makers” who might provide an ongoing contribution to the Circle’s aims will be honored.