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One of Canada's Oldest Non-Profits
The Canadian Mental Health Association is one of the oldest national, charitable organizations in Canada and the oldest national mental health charity. Each year, CMHA divisions and branches across Canada provide service to more than 100,000 Canadians through the combined efforts of more than 10,000 volunteers and staff in locally run organizations in more than 135 communities. Visit CMHA National's website for more information.
CMHA was founded in 1918 by Dr. Clarence M. Hincks, Dr. Charles K. Clarke and Clifford W. Beers as the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene. The original goals of the organization centred around war recruits, mental examination of post-war immigrants, prevention, and support for adequate facilities and care for the treatment of mental illness.
Dr. Hincks became director of the association in 1924. He developed an interest in patients whose work and productive lives were hampered by what was then seen as malfunctions of the mind. He suffered from periodic bouts of depression all his life, so his empathy toward his fellow sufferers, coupled with a profound knowledge of medicine and early twentieth-century psychological developments in Europe revolutionized the conditions and treatment of mental health patients in Canada.
CMHA is uniquely positioned in Canada as a charity that brings together community-based experience and expertise on the prevention of mental illness and community supports for the mental well-being of all Canadians. We are not only unique in our mental health promotion approach but also in our ability to speak to issues spanning the broad range of mental disorders and the full spectrum of those affected from those at risk, to those newly diagnosed, to those who have been living with a psychiatric disability over the longer-term, as well as family, friends and community gatekeepers.
CMHA BC's Beginnings
In 1952, with the assistance of Clarence M. Hincks, British Columbia saw the creation of a BC Division of CMHA. The office started with a federal mental health grant which was gradually diminished over three years as other sources of funding were found. CMHA volunteers became involved in the support of patients at Riverview Hospital and ran the thrift store. At one point, BC Division had employed more people with mental illness than any division in the country.
Throughout its history, the division has advocated for changes to legislation and policy affecting people with a mental illness ensured the availability of community alternatives, access to housing, and income supports. In its monitoring and systemic advocacy role, BC Division has played an important role in the reform of the mental health care system, as well as in community-based research and evaluation, employment supports, public education, and branch support. This history would not be complete if it did not also reflect the pride BC Division has felt being part of a network of CMHA branches in communities across BC whose grassroots involvement and direct services – such as housing, employment services, crisis lines, and support groups to name a few – have touched the lives of countless British Columbians. CMHA BC Division was officially incorporated on October 6, 1953.