Michael Wilson was “adamant, tireless advocate” for mental health causes
Paul F. Schubert
He was best known as the man who helped introduce both NAFTA and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Canada. However, he was also a champion for causes related to mental health.
Michael Wilson was finance minister in Brian Mulroney’s government, ambassador to the United States, a businessman and university chancellor.
His advocacy began with the sudden death of his own son, Cameron Wilson in 1995. From that point on, Wilson was active in numerous mental health charities.
Some of them included the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and the Mental Health Commission of Canada, of which Wilson became chairman.
Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada said that Wilson’s lasting impact on mental health was sharing the story of his son because it became easier for others to speak openly.
“Well, Michael was a real statesman. He was so well-respected, well-regarded, and well-known that having somebody like that speak on behalf of mental health,” Bradley said. “I think he did it so eloquently because used his own lived experience. As you likely know, he lost his son, Cameron, to suicide.”
Bradley also said having Wilson talk about how mental health impacted him helped further the cause in Canada.
Lori Spadorcia shares a similar view.
As the VP of Partnerships and Communications at CAMH, she said that Wilson would share the story of his son’s passing to continue spreading awareness.
“He would always say that the reason he was doing this was so that he could increase the awareness and the understanding of the illness,” Spadorcia said.
“He was an adamant, tireless advocate.”
Spadorcia also said that Wilson fundraised. He also wanted to make other people know that it was OK to reach out for help and not suffer in silence.
Overall, both agree that mental health advocates today could learn a few different things from Wilson.
One way is to continue talking about and discussing issues surrounding mental illness.
“I think they could take their lead from him and that it is OK to talk about this,” Bradley said.
“I think he was somebody that was also able to be critical of the system and talked about what was needed.”
Similarly, Spadorcia said that continuing to connect with people will help to move things forward.
“He didn’t stop. I think he was an inspiration for us because no matter what happened, he just kept moving forward. He knew that we would be able to,” Spadorcia said.
Both agree that the best way to deal with this issue is to continue advocacy-related efforts and activities.