Our advocacy

Our Mental Health Advocacy

The Canadian Institute for Advancements in Mental Health (IAM) is actively engaged in systems advocacy, policy reform and government relations to improve life for those who are impacted by mental illness.
Under our former name, the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, we conducted vital policy and advocacy work throughout Ontario for over 40 years. Today, we continue this important work. Under our newly expanded mandate as IAM we are committed to community engagement, collaborative partnerships and impacting systems change through directly engaging the strengths of and input from those affected by mental illness.

Current Initiatives:

The need for innovative solutions to mental health challenges:
IAM seeks to be a leader in endorsing and advocating for a culture of innovation and collaboration across the Canadian mental health space. Increased investment in mental health innovation is needed to ensure societies become more conducive places in which to live, recover and thrive.

Community-based mental health services and supports:
We work to make connections between government, community-based organizations, businesses and individuals to work together to design creative and effective solutions to support those impacted by mental illness and to enhance the coordination of services across the mental health care system.

IAM is a strong advocate for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) designed specifically for psychosis. We advocate for the expansion of programs like our own which deliver CBT to populations with specialized needs and which are co-designed with stakeholders from across the health and social services sectors, among others. Additionally, we support the expansion and forward progress of a range of community-based treatments and supports including early intervention, counselling, psychotherapy, psychosocial and rehabilitative programs, peer support, mobile crisis teams and more.

Caregiver support:
At IAM, caregivers are a vital part of everything we do. We pride ourselves on our ability to deliver projects and prototypes that are co-created with the very individuals we aim to serve. We advocate for practical and financial support and recognition for caregivers who are often called upon to fill gaps in health and social services systems in order to care for their relatives, friends or neighbours who experience mental illness.

Social inclusion:
Our vision is to redesign society for better mental health, creating environments that are more inclusive, positive and accepting for people with mental illness. Social inclusion can be defined as the ability to fully participate in society and it is integral to mental health recovery. Unfortunately, for many people with mental illness, social inclusion remains elusive. IAM works with sector partners to advocate for inventive approaches to income securityemployment supports and supportive housing which offer more than just a source of support but where people can define their individual recovery and resiliency to live a meaningful life.

Justice and mental health:
Individuals with mental illness are over-represented in the criminal justice system. For many individuals, mental health crises lead to the involvement of police and the numbers of people with mental illness continue to rise in both federal and provincial correctional institutions. This approach is injurious to individuals with mental illness and seriously inhibits effective treatment.
The most appropriate response to individuals in crisis is de-escalation, compassion and connection with appropriate community-based supports, to avoid interaction with the criminal justice system in the first place. IAM advocates for investment in early intervention and community-based supports so that people can access help that is appropriate for them, before a crisis occurs. Where crises do occur, IAM advocates for community crisis services such as funding to expand 24/7 community crisis intervention teams, crisis centres and short-term residential beds, among others.

IAM has prioritized justice and mental health reform as one of our key policy priorities. We work with government, police, community partners, individuals with lived experience and other stakeholders to work towards meaningful reform in policing and corrections. We support and advocate for mental health training in de-escalation for police as well as investment in programs that divert people with mental illness out of the criminal justice system entirely, including expanding pre- and post-charge diversion programs and mental health courts.

Additionally, IAM works towards reform in correctional facilities including increasing access to health and mental health care, training in mental health and de-escalation for correctional staff, oversight and accountability and expanding community reintegration programs. We urge investment in Ontario correctional institutions to support alternatives to segregation and immediate prohibition of the use of segregation for vulnerable groups, including people with mental illness, starting with the implementation of the Correctional Services and Reintegration Act, 2018.

Access to treatment:
Mental illness may be treated with pharmaceutical interventions that often involve a lengthy process of trial and error to find the best-suited medication(s) to address symptoms. Yet, consistent access to affordable and effective medications can be challenging due to costs associated with filling a prescription and the complex system of public and private drug plans.

IAM leverages a diverse network of partners including patients, caregivers, regulatory bodies and industry to promote equitable and affordable access to medications.

Past initiatives
Over the years, we have taken on a number of advocacy issues including hallway healthcare, mental health among refugee claimants, mental health laws, legal aid, conviction records, police record checks, the legalization of cannabis, and more.

Click here to see our past papers, submissions and letters. For more information on our current and past initiatives, contact [email protected]

How you can be involved:
Sign up for our Advocacy Alerts! By signing up, you will:

  • Stay informed of current national, provincial and local mental health initiatives.

  • Hear from IAM about ways you can be involved in our advocacy and provide input into policy.

  • Learn more about effective advocacy strategies.

  • Be part of a common initiative and make a difference!

To sign up to receive information about emerging issues and advocacy opportunities, email [email protected] with the subject line “Advocacy Alerts” or call 1-800-449-6367.