Brain Health in a Brain Economy: Breaking Through (PDF)?
August 26, 2021
Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail, today declared ‘mental health’ a surprise election issue in Canada’s current federal campaign.
And to everyone who has worked hard in whatever capacity to “normalize” our ability to discuss, learn about and understand that mental health problems are part of the human experience, I say bravo to all of you.
The three major national parties all claim mental health as a priority. This means it should stay high on the leader board no matter the result of the vote.
That said, we need, all of us, to be very careful not to interpret a federal political embrace of mental health in a political contest to mean the leader of the next Government will have a clear idea about what spending more money on mental health actually means.
The point is this: more money will not solve with what’s fundamentally wrong with mental health care in Canada.
We will need a new, more informed, more compassionate approach as to reining-in the effects of what mental health conditions across Canadian life.
We will need a clearer picture of how so-called ‘general hospitals’ are accredited to provide psychiatric services through a dedicated unit and how emergency services are accredited to deliver informed mental health care under those circumstances.
I will comment on this in the next few days.
Bill Wilkerson, Executive Chairman, Mental Health International
bill.wilkerson@ – 001-905-885-1751
August 19, 2021??
Statement by Bill Wilkerson, LL. D. (Hon)
Executive Chairman, Mental Health International
“It was 36 Wednesdays ago today, at this exact time, 10.52 a.m. that we were shutting off the life support. I miss my girl. I will get answers. I will get justice. I will never go quietly.”
Patricia Borthwick, Wednesday, August 18, 2021, 10.52 a.m.
New Brunswick is in crisis and one observer says “the people are at the point of revolution.”
This a crisis of conscience, a crisis of confidence and faith in the leadership and overall management of mental health care services.
Newly revealed stories of suffering, frustration and fear provide deeper anecdotal evidence of Horizon Health Network as a source of telling and troubling public experience New Brunswickers have reached out to me by email and telephone.
This is a crisis that permeates the mental life of a liveable and loveable province of Canada that is also, in a sense, a suicide capital in a world where suicide is now the leading cause of violent death and principal cause of death of adolescents.
In 2011, sixteen suicide deaths per 100,000 of the New Brunswick population was the 5th worst among any jurisdiction in the entire world. Consistently, the suicide rate in New Brunswick has exceeded the national average. Women try the most. Men die the most.
There are concerns about murder-suicides. Men killing women. Is this a mental health care system that is broken, or one that simply does not exist at all?
This is also a crisis of leadership within the Government of New Brunswick – and the answer to this crisis does not lie in the stuff government usually does: reports blueprints, strategies.
New Brunswickers are owed an agenda of conscience in the here and now – not a youth drop-in centre in 2024, after ruthless delays already, but one now.
New Brunswickers are owed an examination of conscience within their body politic, among their politicians and leaders broadly.
Why is it that elected officials, hospital officials, public servants are either unable or unwilling to break-into the management culture of Horizon Health and root out the reasons for the “horror stories” that I am told about directly?
It is apparent to me that politicians in this province have effectively turned their back on New Brunswickers perhaps through their own bewilderment as to what to do or through an innate compact of behaviour that transfers this duty to care to the health care professionals and administrators.
New Brunswickers must now must speak and act for themselves. In Charlotte County, a Facebook page says the voice of the people will not be silenced on these matters. This is start.
But to reach “Beyond the Horizon” – which is a timely, pertinent slogan - we advise New Brunswickers to come together as a “Citizens Cabinet for Mental Health Reforms,” and ask your elected representatives and their officials to lead, follow or get out of the way.
Use this election to ask both federal candidates and provincial politicians the following:
Have you spent any time working on mental health care?
Have you learned lessons in life that will help you appreciate the mental health needs of people? Do you understand what it is like to suffer the effects of mental disorders?
If you do, tell us, if you don’t, will you find out and tell us then?
Meanwhile, the stories of real people emerge:
Video of Abuse
A young woman in New Brunswick writes me: “I have been abused, ridiculed, injured, ignored and have received zero aid towards both my physical and mental health from several hospitals in Charlotte County and Saint John.
“I have a video recording of doctors outside of a mental health room mocking me and laughing when I told the hospital advocate I was a rape victim.
“I am still suffering immensely and it is not even because I’m suicidal anymore but it feels like there is no other way to stop all this. I have gone to the hospital – duffle bag and pillow in tow – and told them that if I left I would jump off the reversing falls bridge. They called me a cab.
Concerned about an internal discomfort, she says “Just last week ... the doctor was going to examine my stomach and an ICU nurse said, ‘don’t let her lay on the bed, she‘s a psyche patient and we will never get her out of it.’”
Horizon Health Network demonstrated an extraordinarily harsh manner in responding to the families of young women who took their own lives, one while in Horizon’s care, the other, who I am told sat 8 hours in a Horizon emergency waiting room in suicidal thought. She was ignored. She left without seeing anyone. And killed herself.
Hooks Held for Hanging
In another case brought to my attention, a Horizon hospital said they would “investigate” the possibility the hooks on the bathroom in the psychiatric unit were weight-bearing, thus holding while a 27-year-old daughter hanged herself. Horizon says they will also “investigate” problems affecting their capacity to be watchful and observe this young woman.
Consider this: the Horizon hospital sought and received the mother’s consent to remove her adult child from life support ending her life, accepting the mother’s ‘next of kin’ legal and moral authority to take that fateful step.
Then, this bunch turned around and rejected the mother’s request for information based on the “privacy” of her now-dead daughter. This breath-taking absurdity quickly gave way to more standard bureaucratic excuses.
Months went by – Horizon management frustrating a woman consumed in the kind of grief that is unimaginable to others;
Months went by, time eaten up by a health care company that apparently ignored or was unaware of the higher risk of suicide among family members who lost their kin in this way, deepening her frustration and closing the door to her search for meaningful information.
The mother - a courageous and resolute Patricia Borthwick who grieves her daughter with a ferocious kind of humility - emailed me on August 18, at 10.52 a.m. “It is 36 Wednesdays. At this exact time, 10.52 am., we were shutting off the life support. I miss my girl. I will get answers. I will get justice. I will never go quietly.”
The Horizon people finally released a document concerning her daughter to the media, a heavily-redacted, impenetrable form of bureaucratic evasion. Patricia got a copy from the news media, not Horizon who committed an awful violation of competent common sense and common decency
Later, a 2nd family asked Horizon for information about their daughter’s care after the girl took her own life. At first, the hospital managers said, no, she had turned 16. She was, technically, an adult. Parents had no right to the information. Then, relenting, they forced the parents to sign a legal, non-disclosure agreement for pages of information that may or may prove informative.
Other stories have come to me.
A student told me, ”this is something very personal and passionate to me ... I suffer mental illness ...
“At one point I felt so overwhelmed from my own fear of doing physical harm to myself, a friend drove me to the emergency room of Saint John Regional Hospital. She waited with me for hours.
“A nurse practitioner finally saw me. He asked if I was overwhelmed with my job, I said, of course ... but that was the extent of his interest ... he offered to write me a sick note for work, gave me an Ativan and told me to come back in the morning if I felt the same way.
“Later that year, I had a friend in a similar situation ... I drove her to the same ER at 11.00 pm ... no one saw my friend until 4.00 a.m. ... she was admitted ... but the nurse kept trying to convince her she had no need to stay.”
A Young Married Couple
A 28-year-old working professional, living in Fredericton, tells me of her husband’s struggle with mental illness, saying: “In the past five years, I have become all too familiar with the mental health system in New Brunswick and if there is any way that I can share our story and help improve it, I will do just that.”
Since He Was a Child
A New Brunswicker who has tried to take his own life “several times since I was a child” and who has yet to receive coherent care across the span of his life, wrote to me about Saint John Regional Hospital: “I have nothing but horror stories from Horizon. I tried to kill myself and at the Regional they left me in a room for hours, and finally someone came in and said you have a drug problem not a mental health problem.”
Doctor Said a Prayer
A New Brunswick man with PTSD as a result of childhood abuse, speaks of turning to a Horizon hospital for help when he felt that he might harm himself. The doctor at Horizon told him it was “the devil in me,” launching into a prayer. This was five years ago, in modern New Brunswick.
Brother on a Bridge
The sister of a man finds him on a bridge, ready to jump, giving up on his gambling addiction. She convinces him to go to Saint John Regional Hospital with her. It was after midnight. A nurse said – “with attitude” – that no doctor was available to see him until the morning. They left.
A young mother and wife writes me, her husband suffers a severe mental disorder and she is “totally blown away by the lack of compassion, organization, and accountability of the health care system” in New Brunswick.
A psychologist practicing in New Brunswick speaks of a shortage of mental health practitioners and staff at Horizon Health, and one is drawn to that observation as prescient.
A concerned grandmother asked me “to call me if you think you can help. I need to rescue my grandchildren.”
These are stories of ‘life and death’ - the very words that appear on the cover page of an interim report by the Child and Youth Advocate on youth suicide prevention. One must applaud this initiative. I have these suggestions:
That said, a report will not be enough. What I have seen over the past four months is a mental health care system represented by Horizon bureaucrats who seem to behave as if they are afraid of liability for actions taken or not taken in these matters. One lawyer said this about that: “it is lawyers who made them the way they are.”
Without the voice of the citizens of New Brunswick, change will be hard-won and let us also remember, a crisis of conscience forms a moral basis for a fundamental re-examination of the culture-and-capacity of the Horizon organization to provide compassionate, psychiatric-based care at times of crisis in particular.
The citations in this statement project the stigmatization of mental distress and disorder, not the values of love and compassion for those who come their way. Yes, human love. Most of all, that is what I saw missing in the response by Horizon to the parents of two young women who lost their lives, and in the stories given me by brave people who are willing to make their troubles known to help others avoid their own.
As for a way ahead, I believe the following steps are called for: a Citizens Cabinet drawing on the population of New Brunswick to set forth the following steps by government:
An independent investigation of the management of the psychiatric units of Horizon general hospitals in the province. Horizon cannot investigate itself at Saint John Regional Hospital as is their current intent in the wake of the tragedies under discussion here.
The objective: to uncover, expose and extract management and clinical attitudes, behaviors and practices that diminish, harm, and stigmatize the needs of those who suffer mental disorders and seek care at times of crisis.
A second principal objective is to put lawful and responsible citizen pressure on the Government of New Brunswick to recruit adequate numbers of mental health professionals in mental health, and in allied fields of specialized care wherein depression is linked to other illnesses including cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, and eczema.
In this modern era, with clinical sciences leading clinical care, New Brunswickers must demand an informed response by government, taking into account the following pressing factors:
If there are shortages among mental health care professionals, then that part of this ’crisis of conscience’ must also be addressed – but not without re-creating the culture within the Horizon organization.
In fact, a Citizens Cabinet could realistically pursue the question of whether the current Horizon board has exercised adequate due diligence in the governance of this organization.
Citizen-based leadership and channels of communication on mental health reforms is a must, in my estimate. A “Citizens Cabinet” can advocate for change if widely-representative of the population of the province.
A ‘Citizens Cabinet’ can help answer the question of those who suffer, those who are in urgent need, those who are asking themselves, “where can I turn?” – a question unanswerable in the present mental health care environment of New Brunswick.
A ’Citizens Cabinet’ must be willfully dedicated to making change, to reaching out to those who suffer to alleviate their burden through contact with others who will show them the basic tenets of dignity, respect, and human love apparently deficient in the province’s attempts at mental health care presently.
A ‘Citizens Cabinet’ can mobilize the best form of community spirit and give an expression of solidarity and voicing and presenting the kind of value system and professional services that you insist must define this otherwise Great Province.
A “Citizens Cabinet” can organize a Firm Team of Pro Bono Lawyers to assess and, if possible, act upon a defense of the rights of the people of New Brunswick in the protection, protection and survival of their mental lives against the government indifference and Horizon.
Individual cases can “stand in” for broad litigation aimed at the “system” and that is where focus should be trained first.
Government – at least this government – will not, it appears, do anything of that nature unless New Brunswickers unify and act on your behalf and in your right and to share the pain and embrace the opportunity to be one for all and all for one, as the qwords of a classic proclaim.
Perhaps as a model for the country, argue for and create Citizen Standards to spell out that New Brunswick is a ‘Mental Health Province” not an incompetent uncaring jurisdiction where too many die in violent circumstances, both self-inflicted and otherwise.
Establish channels to university leaders and scientists and secure a lay person briefing of what science now knows about what causes mental disorders and what new treatments are in the offing.
Engage the business community and raise the funds from within the community to create youth-centred programs, do not rely on government, do not wait for government, act on your own initiative in an orderly, lawful, determined way. Use Patti Borthwick as your inspiration.
Reach out to the members of the board of directors of Horizon Health, ask questions, ask why they are serving in that role if they do not know about these concerns as expressed or, if they do know, why are they not taking action? Ask questions of the board, I urge you. Seek resignations if necessary.
Remember, taxpayers/citizens own the health care system, not a management company and government-appointed board or Minister of Health or even the Premier and the Cabinet.
If you feel they have turned their back on you, bring that to their attention. And ask why. Ask for a lot better. Ask for it now.
This government may eventually learn to listen. I suspect, right now they operate between two poles – careless and clueless when it comes to the mental health of New Brunswick.
So, make your voice heard in your call for an independent, arm’s length, investigation of Horizon Health and question why Horizon has the authority and power it now possesses given the stories now being told.
Two final points:
The mission, as I see it, to be stated and to undertake is to go “Beyond The Horizon” in every way possible to ensure meaningful reforms in mental health care in New Brunswick.
Bill Wilkerson, Executive Chairman, Mental Health International
August 9, 2021
By Ashly Smith, Registered Pharmacy Technician
Saint John, New Brunswick
Special for Mental Health International
There was a time in my life when I felt I had nowhere to turn. I felt alone, helpless, and desperate for someone - anyone - to hear me. I was suicidal, and while I didn't have a concrete plan, I found myself in many situations where I imagined the ways in which I could end my life.
On a beautiful fall afternoon in 2019, after spending the day apple picking with my husband and then six-month-old daughter, it took all the strength I had, not to open the car door on the highway. On another day, I imagined myself closing my eyes and free-falling from a great height, just feeling the wind in my hair one last time before ending my suffering.
All I needed was for one person to notice my cries for help - just one tiny shred of a connection to grasp onto to pull myself from the depths of darkness. What I encountered were several people and organizations that were ill-equipped to understand and support someone struggling with mental illness. I was truly alone - or so I thought.
I've struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember. The first notation in my medical records is at the age of nine - anxiety. I was a shy, timid child and this continued into early adulthood.
I began my career in Pharmacy in 2010 at the age of twenty. I graduated from a one-year Pharmacy Technician program taken at the Saint John campus of the New Brunswick Community College. Back then, there were two main roles within the pharmacy – a Pharmacist and a Pharmacy Technician. Pharmacy regulations are often shifting as the scope of practice of pharmacy professionals continues to grow, and in 2015 New Brunswick saw the first Pharmacy Technicians become registered in the province.
This change resulted in all Pharmacy Technicians employed at that time having their title changed to Pharmacy Assistant. To become a Registered Pharmacy Technician, a Pharmacy Assistant would have to continue their education via a bridging program, complete a Jurisprudence exam at the provincial level and two other exams at the national level. In addition, a practical training component required the completion of five-hundred consecutive prescription checks without making an error. One mistake would reset the number of checks completed back to zero.
Registered Pharmacy Technicians are pharmacy professionals registered with their provincial governing body, or “College.” They are required to be licensed, to maintain professional liability insurance, and are bound by the Act, Regulations, and Code of Ethics of the profession of pharmacy. They are also required to ensure their continuous professional development by completing a minimum of fifteen Continuing Education (CE) credits annually.
This new role was created to relieve Pharmacists of the more technical aspects of their jobs so they can focus their time, attention, and pharmacologic expertise on the ever-growing clinical duties of their profession. Registered Technicians have taken on the technical checking portion of prescription preparation – ensuring the correct patient is getting the correct medication, that the directions on the label accurately reflect what is written on the prescription, and the correct drug is in the vial.
They also receive and transcribe verbal prescription orders from Physicians, demonstrate the correct use of different devices to patients, and send and receive prescription transfers between pharmacies. These are all duties that were once only performed by a Pharmacist. In 2018, I completed my training and became a Registered Pharmacy Technician.
Over the years I developed incredible relationships with my colleagues and patients.
I grew exponentially, and as I gained confidence in my abilities; the shy, timid little girl became a professional young woman. I spent ten years in my first job as a pharmacy technician. I took great pride in my work, often starting early or staying late. I got the job done and could always be counted on to have it done efficiently and accurately.
I took on additional responsibilities, no questions asked, and often found myself working in excess of sixty hours per week. I loved every minute of it. My work gave me a sense of purpose and I gave it my all.
In mid-2019, everything came crashing down when unfortunate circumstances caused me to leave my job. For so many years, my job was my identity and suddenly I didn't know who I was anymore. The sense of purpose my job gave me was gone and I didn't know how to live my life without it. How was I supposed to go on? The answer I would have given myself back then was "you're not."
This past July, I came across a Facebook page for the "All Ears Reach Out Campaign." A man local to my area, Gary Brown Sr., created this page to promote a t-shirt campaign he had started, in which he sells t-shirts to raise money to sponsor people interested in taking the ASIST course.
ASIST stands for Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training. The course was founded in Calgary in 1983 by four men with backgrounds in social work, psychiatry, and counseling. Today, it is a two-day workshop offered by Living Works, which teaches participants the skills to recognize signs, provide intervention, and develop a safety-plan to keep someone alive.
I decided to inquire about the course and was given the opportunity to take one of the seats sponsored by All Ears Reach Out. After rearranging my work schedule, I was ready to go.
The results of this questionnaire served as an icebreaker in a sense, as it was our first glimpse into the experiences of the other participants. As a group of twenty-one strangers, we realized for the first time that we were all connected.
After watching a video depicting three different scenarios involving fictional characters who ultimately end their lives, we were divided into two workgroups. In our respective workgroups, we explored our feelings, personal experiences, and beliefs about suicide, and learned how our attitudes can have an impact when providing suicide first aid.
Each of us shared details of our personal experiences, then we moved on to explore the story of one of the characters from the video we watched. As a group, we engaged in role play to alter the course of the character's life, using the PAL (Pathway for Assisting Life) model. The PAL model has three phases:
After leaving for the day, I was mentally exhausted. The content was informative and relatable, but also triggering. In my mind, I was taken back to that time when I felt desperate and alone. After day one was completed, I drove straight to work. There was no time to process the impact the day had on me prior to my shift, so I shed a few tears in my car before heading inside to start my shift.
On day two, we focused on the Assisting phase of the PAL model. We spent time as a whole group, and in our small groups, practicing our skills by acting out various scenarios.
All in all, the training was a wonderful experience. I was able to meet some incredible individuals who are passionate about mental health. I learned that I am not alone in my struggles. Our healthcare system is broken when it comes to mental health. Getting as many individuals trained in the ASIST course as possible can have a major impact by improving access to people who are ready, willing, and able to intervene when someone is at risk of suicide - someone I needed when I was consumed by darkness less than two years prior.
July 2, 2021
Posted below is a letter by Bill Wilkerson to Premier Higgs of New Brunswick asking for a provincial investigation into the suicide death of a patient in the psychiatric care of Saint John Regional Hospital last December.
Also, posted is a news release put out today. Wilkerson underscores that the Saint John Hospital, operated by Horizon Health Network, also mentioned, has itself found deficiencies in the operation of its psychiatric unit. New Brunswick has a suicide rate higher than the national average, it was the highest among the ten provinces as recently as 2016, and in light of this, “hospitals in that province should be on alert not asleep at the switch.”
Bill is encouraging general hospitals that provide “side bar” psychiatric care in Canada to audit the the status of their practices to protect in-patients from harming themselves, especially those on suicide watch as in the New Brunswick case.
July 2, 2021
To: Honourable Blaine Higgs, Premier of New Brunswick
From: Bill Wilkerson, LL. D. (Hon)
By Bill Wilkerson
October 5, 2020
"Unless we prepare for tech revolution, AI could trigger superstorm of chronic workforce stress."
Read the article >
As appears in The Globe and Mail, Saturday, July 18, 2020
Bill Wilkerson, LL. D. (Hon), Executive Chairman, Mental Health International, reflects on his 20-year partnership with the Late Michael Wilson in workplace mental health and, with acclaimed University of Toronto physician-scientist Roger McIntyre, projects Mr. Wilson’s legacy into the future.
A great Canadian, Michael Wilson’s smile lit up every horizon he crossed. He was a man of his nation whose memory and legacy now belong to all Canadians.
Michael was the chairman of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health, succeeding Co-Founder, Tim Price, Chairman of Brookfield Funds. Tim is a powerful mental health advocate and a great Canadian in his own right.
Through these corporate pioneers:
In years past, there were obvious mental health and workplace issues for business to target — issues affecting business costs, productivity, innovation and lost work time.
But these are different times — the pandemic, job loss, climate change, pursuit of justice in the streets. In this context, the mental health goals of business must serve broader societal purposes.
For this reason: the environments in which we live and work are part of the “gene + environment” dynamic causing mental disorders across whole lifetimes from one generation to the next.
Michael Wilson pointed to the “flesh and blood of capitalism” as the property through which business can help reduce these environmental risks.
From this vantage point, business leaders can help achieve a series of Great Societal Goals leading toward the prevention of human misery and economic cost associated with mental illness.
Michael envisioned “an international, workplace-centred, business + science alliance to reverse the tides of brain-based mental disorders and to press for new science to be translated more quickly into innovative clinical care to meet the unmet needs of a half billion people.”
A formula was developed ‘brain health + brain skills = brain capital’ to unify business and science, advancing Michael’s vision.
Flying on the wing of closer synergy between business and science are these clinically-significant priorities for the next three to five years brought into view by Dr. Roger McIntyre:
Priority: strengthen human resilience: our capacity to deal with life.
Priority: discover treatments that alleviate depression symptoms in a day.
Priority: develop treatments specifically aimed at preventing suicide.
Priority: make mental health care accessible for all.
Priority: advance ‘precision medicine’ to identify who will respond to treatment, and who will not.
Priority: expand technology for early detection, improved treatment and medical home care.
These clinical priorities and the societal goals for business will enhance the asset value of human capital in the workplace and in the marketplace — that is, the productivity of employees and the purchasing power of consumers.
An acutely well-timed revolution. Today, so-called ‘intangible’ assets — people — constitute 80% of the reported asset value of corporations. Not technology. Not things. Human beings.
The priorities and societal goals set out here, therefore, will sustain these vital human assets and, in doing so, represent an historic opportunity for business.
?The Unheralded Business Crisis In Canada, Depression at Work
12 Steps To A Business Plan To Defeat Depression
July 20, 2000 (www.mentalhealthroundtable.ca)
Original First-Ever Business Plan to Defeat Depression, Launched in Toronto and Geneva in Year 2000:
June 9, 2020
By Bill Wilkerson, LL. D. (Hon)
Executive Chairman, Mental Health International
‘National Accessibility Awareness Week’
Nova Scotia Reachability Association,
June 5, 2020
April 15, 2020
THE COVID-19 LEGACY: PREPARING FOR GENERATION ONE
” Yours is the first generation that will prevent suicide, stop the spread of the disabling effects of mental disorders and support each other’s mental health and wellbeing openly and naturally, setting aside discrimination and denial of our shared vulnerability. Yours is the first generation that will explicitly imply human love in caring for distressed and disordered minds.”
Extracted from the 2015 McMaster University Convocation Speech by Bill Wilkerson to a graduating class that lost four of its own to suicide in that same academic year. Their parents were in the audience for his remarks. Bill addressed them directly and based on these remarks, the term ‘Generation One’ is herewith introduced.
We call the children, adolescents and young adults of the 21st Century Generation One -
Generation One is graduating into uncertain economic prospects while embracing many social causes in great numbers—equality, climate, same-sex marriage, female empowerment, gender identity and mental health.
Generation One is the first to move into workplaces facing vast change portended by artificial intelligence and Generation One is described by the Economist Magazine as the ‘best educated, best behaved, most stressed and depressed generation than those who came before it.’
After 20 years of awareness-raising, Generation One is growing up at a time when mental health sensitivities, for them, are a given, talked about openly. Generation One prioritizes emotions and their ‘personal brand,’
On this basis, it will be important for business and economic policymakers to understand what an ‘emotion priority’ means and how the promotion and protection of mental health in an economy that put a premium on cerebral skillsets, noting that Generation One will expect:
February 21, 2020
Bill Wilkerson launches unique Cobourg Rotary Club series on mental health called Four Fridays in February. His speech provides broad and, yet, detailed context for discussion and understanding of questions about what mental health is, what mental illness is, what mental illness is not, are those with mental illness prone to violence, are words like “crazy and insane” still used and if so, why?
Notes for Remarks by Bill Wilkerson, LL. D. (Hon),
Executive Chairman, Mental Health International
Launching The Rotary Club of Cobourg Series
‘FOUR FRIDAYS IN FEBRUARY’
A Conversation on Mental Health
February 7, 2020
December 31, 2019
BILL WILKERSON AND MENTAL HEALTH IN THE INTERNATIONAL WORKPLACE
These are cities in North America, Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East where Bill has taken his workplace mental health message through speeches and business roundtables between 1999-2019.
Canada (many cities multiple times)
Thunder Bay, ON
Niagara Falls, ON
St. Catharines, ON
Quebec City, QC
St. John, NB
St. John ‘s Newfoundland
Los Angeles, California,
San Francisco, California (x3)
San Diego, California
Seattle, Washington (x2)
Las Vegas, Nevada,
San Antonio, Texas
St. Louis, Missouri
New Orleans, Louisiana
Washington, D.C. (x4)
New York, N.Y. (x2)
Providence, Rhode Island
Boston, Mass., (x3)
Atlanta, Georgia (x2)
Geneva, Switzerland (x2)
Rome, Italy (x2)
Brussels, Belgium ( x2)
London, England (x3)
Copenhagen, Denmark (x3)
Athens, Greece (x2)
United Arab Emirates
September 25, 2019
The spread of artificial intelligence (AI) into science, society, and the workplace is a revolutionary change that will have profound impacts on not only jobs but also the well-being of workers. Bill Wilkerson, Executive Chairman of Mental Health International, authored a recently published report entitled One Human One Not: Mental Health in the Era of Artificial Intelligence. In this episode Bill shares his views and findings from the report and recommends that AI be managed carefully to prevent it from becoming a major intruder into the mental health and well-being of workers and families. Listen Now www.ccohs.ca
Statement by Bill Wilkerson, LL.D. (Hon)
Executive Chairman, Mental Health International
Industry Professor, International Mental Health, McMaster University
The world is crossing an historic bridge between human and artificial intelligence, bringing together two minds, one human, one not. Can we keep them both healthy? This is unclear.
But this much is clear. The revolution in artificial intelligence is a vivid and present danger to the livelihood and health of hundreds of millions of working people and their families worldwide, threatening to displace and replace human beings in whole jobs and specific tasks on an unprecedented scale.
Even the most informed proponents of AI worry about this. According to Dr. Alan Bernstein, CEO, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), “AI will force us to challenge our cherished views of what it means to be human.”
The World Economic Forum forecasts that individuals in some 375 million jobs will be rotated out of those jobs. According to consulting giant McKinsey, 60-90% of all jobs now in place will be affected by artificial intelligence.
Unless employers and governments prepare for this revolution by retraining workers, creating replacement jobs that demand distinctly human traits, and forging new education and career models, social unrest and public alienation will intensify in a world already fractured by income inequality.
Dr. Bernstein, who leads the Pan-Canadian Strategy on AI, sees “AI as such a powerful platform for analyzing data in new ways that its applications will extend into every aspect of our lives.”
If AI feeds human mental unrest, disquiet and disorder, then it will damage society and if it is cloaked in confusion and lack of transparency, then it will de-humanize the environments in which people live and work.
If the sole driving purpose of AI is to displace employees to cut costs, then it will not only cheapen the cost of producing goods and services, it will cheapen our way life.
Generating invasive, job uncertainty, the deep learning of machines could be a super-power of deep stress for human beings if its infusion is careless and unmanaged. Deep stress is at the root of frustration, fear, anger and rumination which predicts depression
Deep, chronic stress can move us toward depression and just as cancer is a malignant growth, depression – in the words of author Lewis Wolpen - is malignant darkness.
It is also the trigger of 90% of suicides, now the leading cause of violent death. Human beings are killing ourselves faster than we are killing other people. Guns kill more Americans through suicide than homicide.
In late 2018, according to the Economist, suicides in the United States skyrocketed by 18% while globally, suicide declined by nearly 29%, saving nearly three million lives.
Across their lifetime, 50% of populations are symptomatic of mental illness and, in any given year, 20% of the population is afflicted. And these human beings are the faces of the troubled, turbulent times in which the effects of artificial intelligence will be felt.
On a promising note, just as AI may increase the stress-born burden of mental illness, AI apps are being developed to help us better manage depression and anxiety disorders – and even to prevent suicidal risk.
Artificial intelligence is being developed to diagnose and treat schizophrenia more effectively, model psychiatric illness to test new methods of treatment, improve the diagnosis of schizophrenia and improve understanding of autism.
To improve internal decision-making, the Government of Canada has invested heavily in AI systems for internal use, introducing a ‘Directive on Automated Decision-Making’ and an “algorithmic assessment” to spell out ethical responsibilities for the use of AI,
The inevitable ‘but’ surfaces, though, when we consider time frames. The potentially oppressive nature of artificial intelligence as a source of job loss is imminent while counter measures usually take time.
Therefore, my report on mental health in the era of artificial intelligence calls for the “human capitalization” of the AI workplace and digital economy to help balance the billion-dollar investments in machines with billion-dollar investments in people to ensure the supremacy of human beings in the AI workplace.
Human capitalization of the AI workplace should start now with the introduction of workplace protocols or standards - mandated by law, if necessary – to establish the values that will govern entry of AI into the workplace, assess the threats to those values and take steps necessary to neutralize those threats.
On reflection, the ‘human capitalization of AI workplace’ might be stated as the ‘humanization of artificial intelligence in the workplace, this, to eliminate the risks of a troubling ambiguity between the role of people and machines.
In fact, it is clear that the AI revolution is not just a technology event, it is a human event. Surely, it can be leveraged into a positive and transformative, ‘new job’ and ‘new career’ experience for the people who otherwise are written off as short-term pain.
Key to this will be a major transition – from an economy where employees are generally seen as a cost to cut rather than an investment to make.
The AI era will produce technology that will be deployed to valuate people as financial assets, monetizing the human factor in productive capacity, innovation and competitiveness.
In this context, expenditures by employers on employee retraining, reskilling incumbent workers and supporting mental health and well-being is an investment with a calculable and reasonable return.
Investments in people as a defining asset of the 21st century economy also means fostering employment opportunities that demand uniquely human qualities and a focus AI on taking over specific tasks not whole jobs.
The AI revolution is now, and a look into the more distant future is also called for. Perhaps, in Canada, through a Royal Commission on the ‘Prospects for Human Dignity, Development and Health in the 21st Century.” Such an endeavor could be far-reaching in complex times.
To request additional information, schedule an interview, or receive copies of media releases and advisories, please contact us.
Our report, Mental Health in the Era of Artificial Intelligence, is the first is a series of discussions about the mental health and well-being of people in the face of serious public issues now confronting the world. First up, the revolution in artificial intelligence.
From this series, ultimately, we will paint a picture of what the ‘essentials of mental life in the 21st century are and must be. Scrolling down, you will find not only the full report on Mental Health in the Era of Artificial Intelligence in PDF that can be downloaded, but a series of extracts recapping the Report.
The report, as a booklet, is being distributed among leaders and organizations in business, science, health care, government and NGOs across North America and Europe.
Comments are welcome.
July 25, 2019
Bill Wilkerson, LL. D. (Hon) Executive Chairman, Mental Health International,
Industry Professor, International Mental Health, McMaster University
Efforts to create greater public understanding and acceptance of mental illness as a ‘natural’ part of the human experience have had some success in recent years.
But, still, the results are incomplete. This, for several reasons.
For one thing, allied sciences investigating internal/external causes of mental disorders have yet to produce an unambiguous, public-consumable statement as to what science knows as to what these invasive conditions are – and are not.
Over the past number of years, my job as a mental health advocate has been, among other things, to ‘translate’ what I come upon in various research reports and studies that I read on behalf of the people I claim to serve in my self-appointed mission.
Our report – Mental Health in the Era of Artificial Intelligence – is part of that process. As lay people, we can now make several deductions based on what science has reported.
Genes play an important role in the development and onset of mental illness but not without the influence and impact of the environments we are born into and in which we live, work, and co-relate with others.
The simple equation is this: gene + environment is the dynamic that produces the risk and the symptoms of mental illness.
The branch of science where this equation stems from is called ‘epigenetics’ – but, funny-enough, researchers are not always clear what they mean about ‘environment.’
Some refer to environment as the period prior to birth. Some refer to natural environments – air, land, water – despoiled by pollution, a reference not necessarily relating to mental disease but to disease more generally, respiratory being one.
Generally, though, it is fair to say that the environment is an active ingredient in shaping our vulnerabilities and all human beings are vulnerable to the gene + environment dynamic but not all of us are made ill by it. Notably, however, the G + E equation embodies the human factor.
Mental illness has physical properties and physical origins in brain cells, it can be triggered by physical trauma, abuse, deprivation, isolation and other experiences, some gradual, a lifetime in the making, others sharp, pointed factors.
This means how we treat each other contributes to the development and onset of mental illness. How we treat ourselves is also a factor including, very significantly, diet.
In our report on Mental Health in the Era of Artificial Intelligence, and the supporting summaries, we cite this finding: the human brain never functions without reference to the environment outside.
In effect, therefore, the seeds of mental illness are sown in our genetic selves combined the environments and experiences we inherit, create and go through. In effect, the accumulative effect of human affairs one unto the other.
Bill Wilkerson, Executive Chairman, Mental Health International, believes the nomenclature of mental health contributes to public misunderstanding of what mental illness is.
His answer to the question above was reviewed by Dr. Bruce Cuthbert, U.S. National Institute for Mental Health and Dr. Roger McIntyre, University Health Network, University of Toronto
Answer: MENTAL ILLNESS IS biological unrest in a person’s brain that upsets the brain’s machinery for thinking, feeling and perceiving. Brain circuits are working improperly. Mental Illness has physical properties and physical effects.
Mental illness is caused in some combination by what we’re born with (our genes) and what we experience in birth and in life, what we might call our collisions with life. In that light, mental illness is more like an injury.
Mental illness can be both inherited and experienced. In either case, mental illness is involuntary, uninvited, unwanted, is not a form of personal weakness and is not the fault of those who suffer.
The Canadian Armed Forces describe post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as ‘operational stress injury” and have dropped the word ‘disorder’ altogether.
In remarks to Canadian war veterans and their families, I described PTS(D) as a “the normal brain’s response to an abnormal event … like a severe concussion from the inside out.” Getting accidentally hit on the head is not your fault, neither is mental illness.
OF TWO MINDS - One Human, One Not
Mental Health in the Era of Artificial Intelligence
The world is crossing an historic bridge spanning human and artificial intelligence and the result is a meeting of two minds – one human, one not. Can we keep both healthy? That is unclear.
By Bill Wilkerson, LL. D. (Hon), Executive Chairman, Mental Health International and
Industry Professor, International Mental Health, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
CONTRIBUTED TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED MAY 26, 2019
In 2015, MHI and Lundbeck Canada partnered with Post Media to produce a 10-month, national advertising campaign building the case for an International Business-Science Partnership for Brain Health in a Brain Economy. The campaign attracted significant interest, especially online, and we invite readers to have a look at the campaign by visiting http://business.financialpost.com/category/brain-health or clicking the Brain Health link below.
Business and science hold the key to unlocking the door to brain health in a brain economy.
The goal of an International Business-Science Partnership for Brain Health is to hasten the transfer of vital brain discoveries into vital clinical benefits for everyday people, thus changing the world’s experience with brain-based mental disorders over the next 10 years.
Visit the Financial Post website for articles and resources.
?These insights were prepared by Shannon McCoy, an employee of the Government
of Canada, at the request of Mental Health International and its Executive Chairman,
Bill Wilkerson, LL. D. (Hon), to post on and
www.targetdepression.com to share with employees and their employers in
managing the effects depression and anxiety. Read now >
January 10, 2019
???Can International Business and Science Unite to Advance Global Mental Health in a Global Brain Economy?
Embassy of Canada to the United States of America
October 6, 2016
?Global Mental Health & Psychiatry Newsletter: Career, Leadership and Mentorship Program
By Eliot Sorel, MD
Newsletter Volume II, No. 2 June 2016
Global Mental Health: A Powerful Investment in the Economies and Peoples of the World
In 2007, Canada’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Wilson, the country’s onetime Minister of Finance and an international business leader, said major issues such as “energy, security and trade demand international solutions and I absolutely include mental health in that.”?
By Eliot Sorel, MD, Senior Scholar in Healthcare Innovation and Policy Research, Clinical Professor of Global Health, Health Policy & Management, and of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Bill Wilkerson, L.L. D. (Hon), Founding Fellow, Institute for Mental Health, University of British Columbia, Chairman, Mental Health International, London, England and Port Hope, Canada
July 12, 2016
In March, 2013, the 5th US/Canada Forum for Mental Health and Productivity convened by Mental Health International at the prestigious Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto produced a powerful consensus among leaders in science and business that steps are called for to accelerate the translation of brain knowledge into improved treatments for brain-based mental disorders.
The Woodstock Tragedies
RE-RELEASE OF MENTAL HEALTH INTERNATIONAL
Guidelines for Working Parents To Protect Their Children Against The Risks of Suicide June 8, 2016
In light of the tragic events in Oxford County and the remarkable protest by high school students in Woodstock, MHI is re-issuing its suicide prevention Guidelines for Working Parents. This paper was originally released by Bill Wilkerson as Co-Founder of Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Mental Health. It has been updated and is being re-released given the continued urgency of this subject as reflected in the Woodstock tragedies. Read More >
June 8, 2016
BILL’S NOTE TO BUSINESS
KPMG REPORT DE-MYSTIFIES MENTAL HEALTH CARE SHORTAGE
‘Chaotic global Goals and metrics’ among factors driving incentive and structural misalignments that severely limit global mental health care. The elite global consulting firm, KPMG, has produced a report with the World Economic Forum that is one of the most telling assessments of the underlying reasons behind the lack of adequate care for those living with mental disorders.
By Bill Wilkerson, Executive Chairman, Mental Health International
Published on: June 6, 2016
A New Mental Health Plan Could be 'Turning Point' in PS Renewal
The federal government is poised to unveil a new mental health strategy that could be the “turning point” for an employer once dubbed the “worst of the worst” for its high level of chronic stress and depression among Canada’s public servants, said a leading mental health advocate.
Bill Wilkerson, chair of Mental Health International who is leading a pan-European campaign on depression, said a successful plan would change the way executives lead, managers manage and employees work, eliminating the stress that infected the public service like a “super bug” over the past decade.
By Kathryn May, Ottawa Citizen
Published on: May 31, 2016??
Seven Steps Guide Towards a Mentally Healthy Organisation
World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Mental Health ‘Seven Steps Guide towards a Mentally Healthy Organisation’
?April 19, 2016
CivicAction Mental Health Initiative, Comment by Bill Wilkerson
Executive Chairman, Mental Health International
April 18, 2016
Old News, New Again
HR Report story says depression and anxiety top the list of reasons people see their doctor.
February 18, 2016
Employers Must Address Emotional Trauma In The Workplace
In the wake of recent tragic events in Paris, employers must remain alert and responsive to the potential "emotional aftermath" of terrorist attacks among employees. Such events can cause considerable potential trauma and anxiety for workers, and employers have a responsibility to ensure that the workplace remains a venue of safety, security and open discourse.? Read More >?
by Bill Wilkerson, Huffington Post
November 30, 2015
Why workers need support after traumatic events: Paris attacks highlight need for help
?In light of the recent events in Paris, Mental Health International released guidelines on how employers can help workers manage emotional trauma when there is a perceived threat to public safety. Bill Wilkerson, chair of the non-profit, received an honorary degree and delivered a convocation address for McMaster University Friday morning. Read More >???
by Natalie Paddon, Hamilton Spectator, Nov 21, 2015
Life Will Go On, But This Is Not Business as Usual
Employers Urged to Take Seven Specific Steps to Help Employees Content With the "Emotional Aftermath" of France's 9/11.
London, England and Toronto, Canada
The chairman of a business-led workplace mental health campaign in Europe today counseled employers to be alert and responsive to the 'emotional aftermath' of the Paris attacks among their employees.
Bill Wilkerson, a Canadian who chairs the European Business Leadership Forum for Workplace Mental Health, and a European employer campaign called Target Depression in the Workplace this morning set out a seven-point guideline for employers in the wake of these traumatic events.
Monday, November 16, 2015 Read more >
Key Messages of Bill Wilkerson’s European Meetings and Speech Tour
Prior to the 2nd annual Business Leadership Forum in Rotterdam on November 12th, hosted by Unilever, Target chairman Bill Wilkerson, this spring and fall, is visiting six European centres to recruit interest in the Target campaign.
October 19, 2015 Read more >
Bill Wilkerson Hits the Road
Begins 6-city, 6-country speaking tour in Europe and US September - November
Since 2013, this Canadian has taken his pitch to employers for support of mental health to Dubai and 11 European capitals.
September 24, 2015 Read Press Release >
?Mental Health International - This Website is a Free Public Resource
Introducing The Library of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health
Special Link To The European Business Leadership Forum To Target The Impact of Depression in the Workplace
?’THE TARGET CAMPAIGN'
Bill Wilkerson, Chairman
The non-profit company we call Mental Health International (MHI) was founded in 2013 by my colleague, Joseph Ricciuti and myself. This website contains strategies and analyses we have produced as we work across borders in North America and Europe.
This site is a resource for anyone with an interest in issues relating to business, the economy and brain health and specifically those brain-based, body-wide conditions labelled as mental disorders. This site, therefore, is not designed for interaction. It is a free resource.
?Further, this site contains current/contemporary information but also the Official Library of the Global Business and Economic Roundtable on Addiction and Mental Health founded in 1998 and closed in 2011. Mental Health International is the Roundtable’s successor and the Library provides volumes of information, while dated, is still relevant to the cause.
?It should be understood that MHI - like the Roundtable - is not a large organization with lots of staff. It is the mirror opposite of that. So I will continue to respond as best I can to inquiries and requests, but be assured, my effort in this regard will be imperfect.
?As to the design of this site, we have abandoned completely all the standard headings and segment titles that web sites use today so visitors will understand this is a resource and not an interactive site.
Meanwhile, I can be reached at bill.wilkerson@ - 905-885-1751. That said, given my European work and other matters, my availability is simply more limited than before.
Executive Chairman,Mental Health International
????A Conflicting Picture
The “pipeline of new medicines” to treat brain disorders and injuries is at risk of drying up. At the same time, brain research itself appears to be “closing in” on the causes of brain-based mental disorders and national brain projects are occurring in many parts of the world.
Mental Health International - with the support of top business and scientific people - has proposed an International Business + Science Partnership for Brain Health in a Brain Economy to support a ten-point plan to accelerate the transfer of brain science into improved clinical care published by Nature Magazine and penned by the International College of Neuropharmacology (CINP).
To set out the “span of interest” and purposes of such a partnership for Canadian business leaders, MHI has launched a 10-month advertising campaign in Post Media newspapers across Canada, and on-line, in partnership with Lundbeck Canada, part of a global pharmaceutical research and development network specializing in the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders.
?? 2013-21 Mental Health International (MHI). All rights reserved.