Dear Members of the OAMHP,
After a dynamic and inspiring two years, my term as President of the OAMHP is wrapping up this month. I would like to take a moment now and share with you some of my reflections and personal perspectives as part of this last message as President.
When I first came to this role the world around us had begun to change with a speed we had not really seen before. At all levels of government there was talk of a mental health crisis and there were decisions taken and funding being set in place to address these concerns. None of this was surprising to us as an association since the OACCPP (Ontario Association of Consultants, Counsellors, Psychometrists and Psychotherapists), as we were then known, had been around since 1978. Yet for all our efforts we were not at the tables where these crucial matters were being dealt with.
Now, I never really considered myself an activist, however in the role of President I was afforded a terrific opportunity to become one. I wanted and believed our association needed a strong clear voice to find our way to these tables. We had to grow in number and recognition to achieve greater influence with the decision makers in the province and this drive to be more visible and take a more active role was supported by the Board. In large part this was what led us to find a new name. We needed something that better reflected our growing diversity and the skilled workforce that our membership represents. A name that unmistakably reflected our values in collaborative and continuing care solutions in the mental health arena.
My hope was that rebranding would be a vehicle to enhance the priorities of the association while broadening the range of mental health professionals we counted in our ranks. I wanted it to be clear who we are and why we advocate for mental health in Ontario. The tangential result being for us to become a trusted advisor to governments and corporations with the distinct goal of delivering concrete results that affect the provision of the mental healthcare in the community.
Together with the Board of Directors this direction was made a priority and amid all else we took on that year we dove into the task. In the spring of 2019, we began the rebranding process, consultations with the membership and then launched the Ontario Association of Mental Health Professionals (OAMHP) at the 2019 AGM. The new brand has been well received and the process that we went through to get there reflects my personal philosophy on what I hoped to achieve over the past two years … to make a difference.
My goal here was not just membership growth and ‘brand awareness’ but to achieve this through a collaborative and transparent process. It was our job as your Board to represent you as part of a strong and viable organization, advocating for equality, equity, inclusion, and the removal of barriers in the provision of mental health services.
It was also important that we maintain our role as your professional partner, committed to delivering high quality professional development, benefits and personal business solutions. Even our long-standing certification program was adjusted to better recognize the knowledge, skills, and aptitude of mental health professionals, highlighting their expertise in the provision of services.
The Board and I worked to continuously reaffirm the goals of the OAMHP and ensure that those in positions of influence see mental health professionals (private and public) as vital to the continuum of healthcare and a skilled and ready workforce. It is my hope that we have succeeded in laying a solid groundwork from which to build on.
In truth, we live in an unprecedented time yet the opportunity to be a part of a greater change is huge and pretty exciting!
I think I always knew I wanted to be in a helping profession and since I first began my studies at the University of Toronto, this desire to work towards the greater good has not abated. My work at the association has helped to expand my knowledge about governance, collaboration, and the value of transparency. I have also learned much of other health professionals, their clients, needs and the overall healthcare system.
As I move on to take up the role of OAMHP Past-President and Nominations Chair my hope is to also continue on your behalf at CORPHA (the provincial Coalition of Regulated Health Professional Associations) and the Mental Health and Addictions COVID-19 Response Table. To help support our relationship with the PRPA (Partnership of Regulated Psychotherapist Associations) and better shape a role within the Reach out Response Network in Toronto.
I would also like to take a moment to consider the last eight months and the challenges faced as we all worked to bring some order to the confusion created by COVID-19. The impact and changes of this pandemic on our society and our members have been difficult. Sadly, I believe the mental health effects have only barely begun and will continue to be massive. Initially as we responded to the ‘stay home, stay safe’ orders our practices suffered as we all, clients along with the rest of the world, watched in disbelief. Some were furloughed, others laid off and the rest quite simply frightened and overwhelmed.
From what I see, this has been true for most in the field and though now better prepared and less fearful, we are all exhausted with the effort involved.
When I think of what is left to do and how best to get through this period, I go back to a few tips found back last winter when it became clear that this ‘new’ normal could be with us for some time. Simply put, please remind yourself that life can be both simple and complicated or someplace in between. Recognize that if we adjust our expectations just a little, we will likely find ourselves more accepting and far less stressed. Think about practicing self-care and patience. And remember to learn some basic mindfulness. We are all COVID fatigued so take a few moments of every day to be mindful of yourself, of others and the world around us as we make our way forward.
It has been my absolute pleasure and honour to represent the OAMHP as President for the last two years. I thank you all for the opportunity to serve in this way and want to be clear that all achieved during my tenure is in large part a result of your backing. This combined with the efforts of a strong and supportive Board, Jane Alway, our talented new President, our dedicated Executive Director, Maryann Istiloglu, and the ongoing work of our excellent staff.
Please know too that I am stepping down yet will not be far. I remain an active Director of the Board and if I have done my job well then you will understand that I look to all of you to do more. I encourage you to speak up, be active and get involved.
I look forward to the time when we can all gather again.
With kind regards,