Summer Newsletter
Greetings!

We are excited to announce some updates and information about some of our new projects! Click here to view as Webpage
MDSC LAUNCHES SECOND SERIES OF COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH ROUND TABLES
Beginning in late 2021, MDSC began hosting a pan-Canadian series of roundtable meetings with regional community-based, mental health organizations to discuss their programs and successes, ongoing operational challenges, and how the pandemic has impacted their organizations. By learning and sharing more about each organization's signature programs, unique structures, and lived-experience leaderships, we are articulating, on a national level, the historical importance that these groups have played across the country. These mental health organizations provide vital local programs and services and are part of our national mental health care system. MDSC, as a national lived experience-led mental health charity, believes the best way forward, is by remembering the past and embracing the future, together. Our goals are to strengthen the lived-experience national network of community organizations and to work closely together to advocate for improvements to better support these groups to serve all Canadians.

We covered a variety of topics with them, centered around 3 main pillars:
  1. Discover the innovative programs and services offered by these dedicated community organizations, with a focus on better sharing best practices and resources with a wider national network;
  2. Discuss challenges that these community organizations face in delivering high-quality, accessible mental health programs and services, looking at where there are similarities, and where there are examples of innovation successes;
  3. Discuss opportunities for collaboration among these groups, expanding this Pan-Canadian peer-led network and improving the sharing of resources and programs for creative solutions to common barriers faced by these organizations.
We wish to thank the initial ten organizations that took part in the first two roundtables, we produced the attached Preliminary Report and recommendations on how these community organizations can be better supported to continue to provide their valuable services to their constituents. Read the report on our website.

Based on the first roundtable meetings and the findings in our Preliminary Report, and the expressed need by attendees for this initiative, we are continuing with an expanded series of roundtable meetings across the country. This work will lead to a more robust report to governments. Interested organizations are encouraged to make sure your voice is included. Our goals include improving connections among our organizations for increased advocacy and collaboration. We are inviting organizations to register for our roundtable meetings on our website and look forward to welcoming you into this process. 

We would like to thank the many Members of Parliament who we have met with over the past few months, and who have connected us with community mental health organizations in their regions. 
WHAT IS BIPOLAR?
MDSC is pleased to present the revised and expanded third edition of What is Bipolar Disorder? as part of our public educational resource series.

We all get excited by new ideas, pursue our goals with passion, and have times when we want to celebrate with our friends and enjoy life to its fullest. There will also be times when we are sad and withdraw into quiet contemplation or feel upset when things are not working out as planned.

For people with bipolar disorder, these normal emotions can become a roller coaster ride of wild highs and devastating lows. Bipolar disorder (previously called manic-depressive illness) is a medical condition that involves changes in brain function leading to dramatic mood swings. These mood swings can be so severe that they can impair normal functioning at work, at school, and in relationships.

Our new Improving Veterans Wellness program and resources are now available in support of Veterans and their Family Members. The program is provided by the Mood Disorders Society of Canada and the MDSC Peer and Trauma Support Services (PATSS) team.
 
It is well known that social engagement and connecting to others improve our sense of well-being. Throughout our lives, from time to time we may go through a period of not feeling connected. This program is for those who experience this and there are key resources that are available at no cost. Visit: ImprovingVeteransWellness.ca for more information.

2022 DEFEAT DEPRESSION CAMPAIGN
After two years of virtual-only events, the Defeat Depression campaign enjoyed a successful return to in-person activities this spring. With events in Sudbury, London, North Bay, Grey-Bruce, St. John’s, and Halifax, as well as individuals participating remotely in their communities across Canada, the 2022 Defeat Depression campaign raised funds for six different mental health organizations: NISA (Northern Initiative for Social Action) in Sudbury; Daya Counselling Centre in London; LERN (Lived Experience & Recovery Network in North Bay; the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Grey-Bruce; The Pottle Centre in St. John’s; and Healthy Minds Cooperative in Halifax.
In addition to in-person events on Defeat Depression Day, May 28, 2022, a celebration broadcast was shared across the country on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Featuring organizers, participants, community partners, guest speakers, music, lived-experience testimony, and more. Watch here. On Defeat Depression Day, the CN Tower in Toronto, beginning at sunset, lit up blue for the last 30 minutes of each hour in honour of the day.
 
Overall, it was a successful year, and we are extremely appreciative to have had over 550 participants and over 2000 donations! This campaign truly would not have been possible without the support of everyone involved. Participants, hosts, donors, sponsors, and volunteers – we thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Looking forward to seeing you all next year. Visit the website to learn more, and you can still donate to support mental health. 

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We are pleased to introduce you to our new Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot MIRA, the Mental Health Virtual Assistant! 

MIRA is a mental health chatbot that is guided by Artificial Intelligence to help Canadians find information on mental health issues, as well as programs and services.

MIRA is world-leading technology with Canadian roots, meeting people where they are – connecting them to information on services on demand, in whatever way they want. Access MIRA here: https://mymira.ca/.

A vision of Mood Disorders Society of Canada, the MIRA prototype was made possible in collaboration with our partners the University of Alberta, Dalhousie University, the University of Saskatchewan, the International Indigenous Health Research and Training Centre, the APEC Digital Hub for Mental Health, AI4Society, the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute and Mitacs. 

About MIRA:

Digital technologies including AI present new and exciting opportunities to bridge significant gaps in mental health care services. MIRA uses AI and machine learning, in the form of an interactive, informative, and supportive chatbot, to help mental health care system navigation. MIRA will work with you to get you information on a vast number of quality resources (vetted by our 30+ member Expert Advisory Committee) quickly, anonymously, and safely.

A group particularly at risk for mental illness during this unprecedented time is healthcare workers and their families. Healthcare workers face an increased risk of anxiety, burn-out, and depression, as well as the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. Of particular concern is the trauma health care workers are witnessing within the workplace, how their ongoing work tasks limits their ability to address their mental health concerns, and how they may be processing these experiences when they are outside of the workplace, and they have more available time to re-process what they are seeing.

MDSC, and our incredible partners, are working in a truly collaborative approach, inviting everyone to be involved with this project and to share the resources and use the program. MIRA includes two incredible programs in one; MIRA the Chatbot, and the MIRA Resource Library with over 750 (and growing!) vetted mental health resources that the MIRA Chatbot draws from. 

What’s next:

We are expanding every day! Our first prototype is devoted to supporting healthcare workers and their families in Nova Scotia and Alberta. Over the next 12 months, we are working to expand services to healthcare workers, Veterans, first responders, public safety and service personnel, peer-support workers, and children and youth (14yrs+) in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. We will also be translating MIRA to French!

We encourage everyone, whether you are one of the professions mentioned above, work with someone in these sectors, or if you have been impacted by mental health issues, to go to the MIRA website, and read about the MIRA program. It is fully anonymous and easy to use. Learn about our work and partners here. Come join us in developing this important resource. We are always welcoming new partners to the project. A very special thank you to our wonderful sponsors who have made the development of this tool possible.
MIRA IS HIRING!
ABOUT MDSC
MDSC was incorporated in 2001 and has evolved to become one of Canada’s best-connected mental health NGOs with a demonstrated track record for forging and maintaining meaningful and sustained partnerships with the public, private and non-profit sectors throughout Canada. With the overall objective of improving access to treatment, informing research, and shaping program development and government policies with the goal of improving the quality of life for people affected by mood disorders.

MDSC offers educational resources, workplace mental health, anti-stigma resources, the national Defeat Depression campaign, peer and trauma support programs, veterans, first responders and health care worker programs that have a direct positive impact on the lives of Canadians, their families, and caregivers.

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