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Frequently Asked Questions from Media

Answers to frequently asked questions about mental health, as well as questions and answers about this year’s theme.

What is a “consumer”?

The term “consumer” refers to a person who has used or is using services provided by the mental health system. There is some debate within our community about the most appropriate term. While some organizations prefer the term “client”, CMHA has listened to and heard individuals who have used or are using the mental health system and many of them prefer the term “consumer”. This is the word employed throughout our communications.

What can I do to help the CMHA during Mental Health Week?

Call your nearest CMHA branch/region or division or the CMHA national office to see how you can become involved. The CMHA needs help and support throughout the year, not just during Mental Health Week. You can do this by becoming a member of CMHA, volunteering and/or making a donation in support of our work. Your support is vital to our work.

What is the significance of the “Emerging into Light” symbol?

The Emerging into Light symbol represents the recovery and resilience of people living with mental illness. It was created in 2002 by a consumer and endorsed by the CMHA and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Health to increase awareness of mental health issues and as a symbol of respect for people living with mental illness. Visit for more information.

What is the role of the CMHA?

At the community level, CMHA Branches/Regions provide multi-faceted services directly to consumers, their families and other stakeholders. Each Branch/Region structures its programs to meet the needs of its community. For example, links with ethno-cultural groups have been invaluable in providing service to diverse populations. And links with the private sector have been invaluable in helping to improve employment prospects for consumers. Provincially and territorially, CMHA Divisions provide public education materials, develop policy, conduct research, studies and demonstration projects and advocate at the provincial level. CMHA National works to assist the members of the Association, through the 87 CMHA Divisions, Regions and Branches in over 300 communities across Canada, promoting the mental health of all people. CMHA National reaches out to the federal government at political and bureaucratic levels to drive policy and advocate on issues relating to mental health. We also develop national educational materials for the organization as a whole, work in partnership with other national organizations on common issues of concern, provide leadership on national/pan-Canadian issues and conduct research and programs to support policy development.

How is CMHA funded?

CMHA is a charity – in fact we are one of Canada’s oldest charitable organizations. We rely on the financial support of corporations, foundations, individuals and other groups who believe in our work. Throughout the organization, CMHA also receives government support for specific programs and services.

How common is mental illness in Canada?

Mental illness is increasingly recognized as a serious and growing problem. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians will develop a mental illness in any given year. Many more individuals such as family, friends and colleagues are also affected.

What is mental health?

Mental health means striking a balance in all aspects of one’s life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental. At times, the balance may be tipped too much in one direction and one’s footing has to found again. Everyone’s personal balance is unique and the challenge is to stay mentally healthy by keeping the right balance. Mental health is as important as physical health. The World Health Organization (WHO) has always considered mental well-being as an integral part of the general definition of health. WHO defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. CMHA believes that everyone must have good mental health, including people living with mental illness on a daily basis.

What is mental illness?

Mental illness is the term used to refer to a variety of mental disorders that can be diagnosed. Mental disorders are health conditions that are characterized by alternations in thinking, mood, or behavior (or some combination thereof) associated with distress and/or impaired functioning.

Contact your local CMHA office for information on resources in your community.