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Chancellor Wilson: U of T is ‘beacon of hope’ in promoting mental health

Chancellor Michael Wilson address the annual general meeting of the university's alumni association (photo by Petia Karrin)

The Honourable Michael Wilson, Chancellor of the University of Toronto, recently celebrated the university’s impact in mental health research, education, and care.

In his keynote address to the annual general meeting of the University of Toronto Alumni Association, he said that “Our alma mater is not only a centre of convergent excellence, it is a beacon of hope in the promotion of mental health, here at home and around the globe.” (Read the complete address.)

Praising the “growing culture of mental health awareness across the University”, the chancellor noted that “U of T offers an amazing range of health and wellness programming for our students, across our three campuses. The university takes a holistic and integrated approach to health services, health promotion, and counselling and psychological services…. It is impressive and heartening to see the efforts constantly underway to respond to the evolving needs of our students.”

Wilson drew attention to the national and international leadership of U of T faculty members in mental health care and public policy. He pointed to Dr. David Goldbloom’s role as chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, and the fact that much of the commission’s national mental health strategy is informed by U of T research. He also highlighted the transformation of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, one of the university’s nine partner research hospitals, into “a model for the world in patient care, education, and research, and community integration.”

The chancellor said that stigma remains a serious obstacle to access to mental health care. But he noted the great progress made in recent decades, by individuals speaking out from personal experience, and by philanthropists and corporations associating themselves publicly with the cause of mental health.

Wilson argued that another crucial factor in that progress is the “convergence of talent and multidisciplinary strength here at U of T, which long predates the anti-stigma and philanthropic initiatives of recent decades. Quite simply, mental health is attracting support here because of the remarkable concentration of world-leading experts in the field at this University.”

“U of T psychiatry researchers have made breakthrough contributions, from the discovery of the brain dopamine deficiency, to pioneering work on eating disorders, sleep disorders, schizophrenia, and addictions, to the world’s first PET scanner dedicated to psychiatric research and treatment,” he said. “Today U of T psychiatry is a national and global leader in brain imaging, epigenetics, personalized medicine, social research, and evidence-based psychotherapies, including cognitive-behavioural therapy and mindfulness.”

“The needs in our world – in this city, and oceans away – are still so great,” Wilson concluded. “And access to care – whether it’s limited by fear and stigma or a lack of doctors – is still an enormous challenge. But the University of Toronto is showing that progress is possible – that chains of isolation in illness can be turned to chains of collaboration for wellness.”