OPA Mental Health Advocate of the Year Award
The OPA Mental Health Advocate of the Year Award is presented annually to a non-physician member of the public who has made a major contribution to the understanding of mental illness and its impact on individuals in society.
The 2022 Mental Health Advocate of the Year Award Winner is
Called to the Bar in 1994, Beth is currently Senior Counsel at the Ministry of the Attorney General Civil Law Division, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Long-Term Care Branch. She has a broad-based health law litigation practice.
In 2003 Beth was diagnosed with bipolar disorder following a psychotic episode that led her to be hospitalized for two weeks at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. Concerned about how news of her illness might impact her role as a lawyer, Beth kept her illness a secret for 14 years.
In 2017 Beth made the decision to come out of the “mental health closet” and started speaking publicly. In August of that year the Globe and Mail published an article written by Beth about her decision to disclose.
Since January 2018 Beth has been a Friend of the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. Her story of working as a lawyer with bipolar disorder has been featured on television, radio, podcasts, print media and even billboards across the country. Television appearances include The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News, CTV North News, CP24 and a CTV prime time special, “In Their Own Words”.
In 2021 and 2022 Beth co-chaired with the Treasurer of the Law Society of Ontario, Teresa Donnelly, a Mental Health Summit for Legal Professionals. This year there were nearly 6,000 registrants.
Beth is a founding member of the Voices for Mental Health which is a group of employees at the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General who have lived mental health experience. The Voices provide programming within the Ministry of the Attorney General and beyond on topics relating to mental health. Voices was awarded the Deputy’s Award of Excellence, the highest honour awarded in the ministry.
As a peer mentor for Homewood Health (the Law Society of Ontario’s Member Assistance Program provider) Beth has assisted other lawyers foster their mental well-being.
Beth is a founding member and captain of The Bipolar Express, a team that raises money for a youth mental health program operated by the Canadian Mental Health Association. The Bipolar Express has been the top fundraising team in the country in the CMHA’s annual fundraising event Ride Don’t Hide (also called Mental Health in Motion) for the years 2017 to 2021 inclusive. The team has raised over $160,000 for youth mental health.
Beth has made approximately 150 presentations on mental health including to many of Canada’s premier law firms. She has made presentations to all levels of government as well as schools, universities, law schools, corporations and social clubs.
In March 2022 Beth was awarded the Law Society Medal, the highest honour available to a lawyer in Ontario. The Medal was awarded for outstanding service within the profession in accordance with the highest ideals of the profession.
Beth is on a mission to help improve the lives of those living with mental illness as well those who care for them.
Nominations are currently closed. Nominations for the 2023 Award Winner will open in February 2023. For any questions contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previous recipients have included leaders in volunteer and community activities, people from the field of journalism and individuals who suffer from mental illness. Our most recent recipients were: Ron Ellis, Lt. General (Ret.) Roméo Dallaire, Anne Murray, Phil Upshall, Senator Michael Kirby, William MacPhee, Michael Bay, Robert Munsch, Sister Margaret Smith, Margaret Trudeau, Voices from the Street, Brother Richard MacPhee, Clara Hughes, Ann Dowsett Johnston, Sgt. Lorna Bruce, Dr. Heather Stuart, Kim Moran, Eric Windeler and Jennifer Coggon.
The 2021 OPA Mental Health Advocate of the Year Award Winner is
Jennifer is a founding member of Ontario Patients for Psychotherapy (OPFP), a grassroots collective that advocates to protect public health insurance funding for a full range of psychotherapy services. Since 2019, OPFP has lobbied the Ontario government to rescind their proposal to unilaterally cap funding for psychotherapy sessions. Jennifer accepts OPA’s award to recognize those people in Ontario who need publicly-funded, patient-centred mental health care.
The 2020 OPA Mental Health Advocate of the Year Award Winner is
Eric started Jack.org with his wife Sandra Hanington and their closest friends in May 2010 after losing their son Jack to suicide. Since then, Eric has put aside his business interests and leads Jack.org full-time. Eric works tirelessly to inspire discussion about mental health, especially among young people. In 2013, Eric received the Champion of Mental Health award from CAMIHI and the QE Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2015, Eric was honoured by Queen's University, receiving an honorary degree (LLD) recognizing his work in the field of mental health. In 2017, Eric and Sandra Hanington received the Meritorious Service Cross (Civil Division) from the office of the Governor General. Most recently, Eric was selected as one of the 150 CAMH Difference Makers for mental health in Canada. Eric is also recipient of the 2018 Queen’s Alumni Humanitarian of the Year Award. Eric sits on the board of FRAYME, a youth mental health best practices charity.