Hope prevails

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Margaret Trudeau graced the stage at the Best Western Lamplighter Inn and received a roaring applause from those who found inspiration in her story.The St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, London-Middlesex was pleased to present Margaret Trudeau as the first Breakfast of Champions keynote speaker. Breakfast of Champions is an annual event dedicated to mental health education and awareness.

The room was filled with a mixture of mental health care practitioners, consumers and administrators, philanthropists, and members of the community who all stood and applauded Margaret for sharing her personal experience -bringing openness and attention to mental health issues. Margaret’s story captured the spirit of the event and noted the importance of responding to mental health care needs.

Dr. Sandra Fisman, chief of psychiatry for St. Joseph’s Health Care, in London was thrilled with Margaret’s presentation. “I’m not sure she knows how much good she has done here – how many people she impacted at the Breakfast of Champions. We are going to see positive things come of this event.”

Sandy Whittall, integraed vice president of Mental Health Services at St. Joseph’s also noted the importance of the event. “It truly is time to break down the walls of stigma surrounding mental health. As leaders in providing specialized care to those with severe mental illness, we know the far-reaching discrimination and stigma experienced by those we serve. Through events like this – and the courage of individuals like Ms. Trudeau, who share their stories – we are better able to promote awareness, understanding and acceptance of mental health issues in our communities.”

The Breakfast of Champions event also presents the Champion of Mental Health Award to honour a mental health care professional or service provider. This year’s champion was Susan MacPhail. Susan is the program director of Woman’s Mental Health Resources at WOTCH and also works with My Sister’s Place, a centre that helps women with homelessness, addiction and mental health issues. She has worked tirelessly for the past 30 years in London-Middlesex; and in this time has been a front line worker, an administrator, a policy maker, a teacher, and a visionary. Her involvement has helped to evolve mental health care in Southwestern Ontario.

Michael Petrenko, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, London-Middlesex, believes the award is important to recognize the contributions of mental health care professionals. “We have an opportunity with this event to identify, honour and celebrate excellence within our community. Some of the best in the country are in our midst, including our Champion of Mental Health.”

“The sold out event was an important step for our Foundation in launching our awareness and fundraising efforts for mental health at St. Joseph’s,” says Michelle Campbell, president of the St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation. “The intense public interest in this inaugural event shows that the community is ready to be engaged and involved. It was also our opportunity to showcase the important work of our staff at both Regional Mental Health Care London and St. Thomas in caring for those with mental illness.”

After the event, as people shuffled out of the room, the words fabulous, uplifting, and inspirational echoed off the walls. People noted – if Margaret could survive all she had been through – hope prevails for everyone.