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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 2 January 2014

2014: The Year Canada Goes Mental

I remember having a great conversation with Louise Bradley about this very subject at an Economic Club of Canada luncheon.  A friend had bought me a ticket, because she felt it was something I should attend; the ECC's President, Rhiannon Traill, had offered me a seat at her table because she'd read a bit of my blog and thought I'd have something interesting to add to the conversation.

Louise, Rhiannon and I, as well as a few others, talked about the need for entry points, opportunities to connect the issue of mental health with broader audiences that didn't realize this was their issue.  Mental health and the Justice System was a biggie, as was the idea of optimizing the mental wellness of police themselves.  If you can make this an issue of support, not contention, I argued, you can make it easier for partners to get on board.

The same applied to the Knowledge Economy and productivity in general; when it's brain work you're after, it's cognition you need to support.  Standard labour supports aren't designed for that - they were developed more than a century ago to facilitate the industrial economy.  Introducing the concept of cognitive labour, I argued, would make it clear to employers and policy makers that mental health was a core bottom-line issue.

A third entry point was the then-gestating concept of renewed citizen engagement which has since become the well-branded Open Government movement, a sort of government-led variation on Occupy.  Social media and online tools, I argued, are facilitating what Don Tapscott calls Networked Intelligence; intelligence is brain-work, which connects it to mental health.  Done correctly, these sorts of tools and strategies could bring more people into the conversation in meaningful ways; the more you feel engaged, the more you're focused on solutions, not problems.  It's a behavioural economics thing, which is also mental health.

All of this, of course, was about opening doors through which people could walk along to a place where we all belong, collaborate and develop shared solutions.  The point was (and is) to break down barriers that prevent circulation - to disrupt the top-down hierarchical system that has been fostering social atrophy.  

Like any organism, the body politic requires circulation to function properly.  A healthy society, to truly be healthy, must also be a conscious one.  Consciousness is awareness of the landscape, of others and of oneself.  It's at that level of social consciousness that we're emerging.

The partners are there, the ideas are there and increasingly, the will to collaborate is there.  Leaders at more and more influential levels are all getting on board with the same concept, though they don't necessarily see how all the pieces fit together or use the same taxonomy.

With a few elections on the horizon, there's a real opportunity for political leadership to get on board as well.  Whether they do now, or their successors do later, the picture emerging is a bright one.

I'm just happy to be part of it.

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