Trish Hennessy is director of Upstream, a project of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) that is dedicated to policy solutions that foster a healthy society and community wellbeing. Trish is also a senior communications strategist at the CCPA. She is focused on the eco-social determinants of health, sustainable development goals, income inequality, decent work, and an inclusive economy. Trish was the founding director of the CCPA Ontario,a progressive think tank that focuses on provincial and municipal social justice and economic issues. She co-founded the Ontario Living Wage Network. She was the founding director of the CCPA national office’s growing gap project, which began in 2006. Trish was a former newspaper journalist, originally from Saskatchewan but she now lives in Toronto. She has a B.A. in Sociology from Queen’s University, a B.S.W. from Carleton University, and an M.A. in Sociology from OISE/University of Toronto.
From “me” to “we”: a collectivist vision for an upstream mental health approach
Before COVID-19, the national conversation about mental health in Canada largely focused on de-stigmatization; the need to openly talk about mental health challenges and to seek help. But the conversation was simply at the “me” level: what you or I can do to work through mental health issues. Such a focus overlooks the systemic issues that can determine whether you or I struggle with mental health challenges—issues such as income inequality, precarious and low-paying work, lack of access to high quality, affordable early learning and education opportunities, and the stress of living with housing and food insecurity. These issues become compounded for people who are racialized, gender diverse, or facing physical and emotional challenges. Individualizing the problem situates de-stigmatization as the goal. COVID-19 is also exacting a mental health toll on many Canadians, requiring us to think bigger picture. What if we look at mental health from a collectivist, societal point of view, acknowledging triggers are baked into the system? That’s when we move beyond the current discourse towards a vision for an upstream approach to mental health—moving from “me” to “we”.