Elliot Goldner

SFU professor chairs national committee on mental health

November 1, 2007

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By Stuart Colcleugh

Health Sciences professor Elliot Goldner (above) is poised to play a key role in improving mental health for Canadians as chair of the newly formed Mental Health Commission of Canada’s advisory committee on science. The commission was established in September to develop a national mental health strategy, decrease the stigma associated with mental illness and ensure knowledge exchange and translation among the provinces and territories.

Goldner, a health scientist and psychiatrist with more than 20 years of experience in mental health and addiction services and policy, is optimistic the new commission will create improvements for Canadians with mental health problems.

"This is the first time Canada has had a commission of this kind," says Goldner, who founded and is now a key member of SFU’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction.

"The structure of Canada’s health system, with its emphasis on provincial/territorial operations, has made it difficult to develop a national strategy," he says. "The commission will enable us to share information and knowledge across provinces and territories, and work cooperatively."

The mental health commission’s creation was a key recommendation of a 2006 Senate report entitled, Out of the Shadows at Last: Transforming Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Services in Canada.

Until then, there had been no national review of Canada’s mental health services for more than 40 years. The Senate report found that the country’s mental health services were fragmented and Canada was the only G8 country without a national mental-health strategy.

Ottawa has committed $10 million over the next two years and $15 million per year starting in 2009–10 to support the new body as an arm’s length, not-for-profit corporation.

"It’s wonderful to see mental health and addictions problems receiving attention," says Goldner. "The population has recognized that mental health and substance use problems are significant issues and people are now more comfortable speaking openly and working to find solutions." Goldner says the World Health Organization has asked the Canadian commission to collaborate on projects addressing mental health issues. As a result, he says, the body will develop an international profile as it seeks "to work closely with colleagues in other nations to ameliorate mental health and substance use problems."
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