CAMH receives landmark $100M donation for mental illness research Health, News

According to CAMH, young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group. (Secondarywaltz/ WIKICOMMONS)

By: Olivia Morris

Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) received the first $100 million donation dedicated to mental health in Canada from a generous donor who insists on staying anonymous.

The notable donation was broadcasted at 11 a.m. Thursday at a CAMH centre gym where CAMH President and CEO Catherine Zahn, scientists and previous patients announced their gratitude.

“It was jaw dropping,” said Sean O’Malley, senior media relations specialist and spokesperson for CAMH. “For us here at CAMH, it was a real endorsement of what we’ve been saying for years, which is that mental health desperately needs the kind of funding for access to care in the current system, but also for research in dealing with the patients of tomorrow,” he said.

The donation was given to Canada’s largest mental health centre to support research into mental illnesses. Mental illness is the world’s leading cause of disability, affecting more than 6.7 million Canadians every day, according to CAMH.

The generous donation made towards mental health research will allow CAMH to create a Discovery Fund. The fund will focus on priority areas of research which will include translating research findings into clinical practice, new ways to prevent mental illness and activate the next generation of scientists.

“The Discovery Fund is to recruit and retain top scientists in Canada and internationally and to encourage them to do what we’re calling ‘high risk, high reward’ work in search of future cures,” said O’Malley.

“With an unprecedented donation of this size we want to consult as widely as possible within the hospital, with patients and with people in the public,” he said.

O’Malley said the philanthropic donation will allow CAMH to come up with breakthrough cures and innovations for mental health.

“We also want to be mindful of making sure that we can use this fund going forward to keep up with the pace of change,” he said. “We’ve learned more about the brain in the last 10 years than we have in the entire annals of medicine before then.

O’Malley said billions of dollars in Canada is spent on physical health and Alison Caird, Executive Director of Distress Centres Toronto, agrees.

“Typically in the healthcare sector, mental health is sort of secondary to the physical health, rehabilitation or other kinds of disease. To have this large gift given to CAMH is incredible for the sector and the people it will serve,” she said.

Caird hopes the research CAMH develops from the donation can have an impact clinically to help improve the lives of individuals and their families coping with mental illness.

Distress Centres Toronto, which provides 24/7 support to suicide prevention, emotional support and people with mental health issues, receives 12 per cent of funding from the government. The organization relies on outside fundraising to provide support to those experiencing emotional distress.

“There’s no wrong way to give money,” Caird said. “Organizations that are non-profit require the support of philanthropic individuals. I think some people are perhaps more introverted or shy about that kind of spotlight and want to just give this particular way, but there’s absolutely no wrong way to give a donation,” she said.

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