Mary Deacon – WOMAN of ACTION™

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A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this Canadian woman leader, one that is being celebrated for rising above her own challenges and sufferings; thriving today through her dedication to bettering the lives of those that suffer from mental illness.

She is the Chair of Bell’s Mental Health Initiative, with the mandate to uphold and implement all of the four pillars of Mental Health: Anti-Stigma, Care & Access, Workplace, and Research.

The initiative is the largest corporate commitment to mental health in Canadian history,. We thank to this woman leader for sharing her own story and accepting the role of CEO of this program, overseeing all these amazing initiatives.




mary deacon


Mary Deacon


Mary Deacon has known mental illness issues all her life having lost two brothers to suicide; while enduring her own battle with depression.

depression collage

Her first brother, suffering depression, committed suicide at the tender age of 25.

Mary’s second brother committed suicide at the age of 39.

He suffered from ‘obsessive compulsive disorder‘. This brother had studied to be a doctor, suffered depression for years without telling anyone because he was afraid the ‘stigma‘ would ruin his career as a doctor.

Mary realized after she was treated for grief at the loss of her second brother, that she too had been suffering from depression herself, all her life.

Instead of shying away from mental illness issues, she embraced it head on and has become an advocate for this sensitive issue, encased with challenges of stigma.

Mary tells CTV “I had all of the classic symptoms of depression, I had all of them, but it was normal. That was my life,” she says. “I thought everybody was like that. I thought for everybody getting up in the morning was really hard. I thought for everybody going out and playing a game of tennis, or working or talking to people or interacting with people or sleeping (were really hard). I thought everybody was like that, they just did a better job of coping with it, they were tougher than me.”

She became involved in community programs to enlighten the public on mental illness issues. Bell Canada’s National program, for Montrealers and all Canadians alike, Let’s Talk, was the one that most resonated with her.

Andrea Janus, CTV.CA reports “No one would blame Mary Deacon if she chose to shy away from mental health issues, having lost two brothers to suicide and enduring her own battle with depression. But Deacon has made mental health advocacy a big part of her life’s work, which has led her to her latest role, as chair of Bell’s Mental Health Initiative to raise awareness about mental health issues.

Deacon says “Advocating for patients with mental illness is a natural fit for her, given her personal experiences.”

Deacon highlights the three “A’s” that are key to the dialogue about mental illness: Awareness, Acceptance and Action.

In September 2010, BCE Inc.’s Bell Canada announced one of the biggest social project investments in Canadian history, pledging $50-million over the next five years to support mental health nationally. The subject has always held a stigma that has made raising funding more difficult than for other causes. A top tier Canadian corporation backed away at the last minute from a major sponsorship in mental health just a few years ago.

Bell’s move was in the works for a long time. The company wanted to find a program that would be relevant to employees and customers, national in scope and “potentially transformational,” says Mary Deacon, chair of the Bell Mental Health Initiative and former chief executive officer of the CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) Foundation.

“It also looked for a cause that needed support but didn’t get it.”she adds.

Bell says it will use its scale and brand to create a national conversation about mental health issues. The projects it funds will be evaluated for specific outcomes. The first donation of $1-million has gone to the Royal Ottawa Hospital to expand its tele-psychiatry program. Bell expects to see the number of patients receiving tele-psychiatry [accessing the psychiatrist via webcam and high-speed internet from home or the workplace] to increase by 200 per cent over five years as a result. Sponsorship of research will follow and likely involve chairs and fellowships.

“They will bring focus to an issue,increase capacity in those areas in the short term and long term,” Ms. Deacon says.

Internally, Bell plans to make sure it “walks the walk” by improving its own practices around mental health, including improvements in its employee assistance program. It plans to train managers about mental health issues and build a culture of support.

bell_lavieBell showed a level of leadership and boldness in its move to support mental health, Ms. Robertson says. Five years ago, a lot of people would have told the telecom to avoid the issue like the plague. But Bell has approached the cause strategically and people can see the company wants to discuss real issues.

One of the few missteps a business can make in the field is committing to an initiative it won’t finish. That appears unlikely in Bell’s case. CEO George Cope spoke of his own mother’s fight with mental illness, giving the investment resolve from the top.

“Returns on community investments can be “quite squishy,” admits Ms. Deacon, but Mr. Cope has taken a personal role in the project and is applying to it the “same kind of business rigour and execution” he applies to all aspects of Bell’s business.” she says.


“In 2011 the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund invested in 49 different local mental health organizations across Canada,” said Mary Deacon, Chair of the Bell Let’s Talk initiative. “We are delighted to have partnered with these wonderful organizations, which are doing such important work to help people affected by mental illness in our communities. We look forward to welcoming more new partners to the Bell Let’s Talk initiative in 2012.”

BELL CANADA - Mary Deacon, Rudi Ruttiman and Phyllis NovakThe Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund is part of Bell’s five-year, $50 million mental health initiative. Through the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund, organizations, agencies and hospitals across the country from coast to coast to coast can apply for grants to support programs that aim to eliminate the stigma of mental health and improve access to care.

The fund provides grants to select projects providing front-line support to those impacted by mental health issues, with the objective of improving the well-being of Canadians affected by mental health problems in communities large and small right across the country. To apply online for 2012 funding, or to learn more about Bell Let’s Talk Day on February 8, please visit

The Bell Let’s Talk mental health Initiative is built around four action pillars: anti-stigma, care and access, research, and workplace best practices. The facts of mental illness and its impact underscore the need for accelerated support for mental health at all levels in Canada:

At least 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a form of mental illness at some point in their lives – every one of us has a family member, friend or colleague who will experience mental illness.

Bell Canada Mental Health and Anit-Stigma Research ChairThe distinguished panel involved in the research chair announcement included: Richard Reznick, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences; Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor; Mary Deacon, chair of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative; Heather Stuart, inaugural holder of The Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair; and Thomas O’Neill, chair of the board, BCE.

Mental health funding is modest relative to other health care issues – mental illness represents 15% of Canada’s health care burden; but receives only 5% of health care funding.

Just one-third of Canadians who need mental health services actually receive them.

Mental illness is the number one cause of workplace disability in Canada – accounting for 30% of disability claims and 70% of disability costs.

Mental illness costs the Canadian economy $51 billion each year in lost productivity – every day, 500,000 Canadians are absent from work due to a form of mental illness.

Bell is honoured to be named the recipient of the 2012 Freeman Philanthropic Services Award for Outstanding Corporation for the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative. The prestigious international award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) will be presented in March in Vancouver.

Bell Canada and Queen’s University have announced a world-first with the establishment of a new $1-million research initiative to help fight stigma associated with mental illness.

“Bell’s generous donation has allowed Queen’s to appoint a leading scholar to further this important field of study,” says Dr. Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University. “We welcome this opportunity to work with the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative as we continue to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness; Bell has helped today to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Canadians now and in the future.”

The Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair will enable Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences to advance its anti-stigma research, scholarship and outreach programs.


La Presse reported that each year, 30% of short-term work stoppages associated with mental health problems. In Canada, they represent an economic burden of 50.8 billion in lost productivity. Challenged by these statistics humanly and economically damaging, Bell Canada has elected to measure its internal practices.

In 2010, the company is associated with mental health by creating a $50 million program over several years. Determined to break down prejudice and support a cause historically underfunded, leaders, however, realized they had to do more. “We want to be an example for other companies by improving the way we treat our own employees, said Mary Deacon, Chair of the Bell Let’s Talk initiative for the cause. Knowing that one in five suffers from a mental health problem during their life and that Canadian adults spend most of their time at work, we could not ignore this reality home. By cons, when we looked for a guide to good practice in mental health, we have not found anything. ”

Bell has contacted the Mental Health Commission of Canada to that criteria be established.

“We have funded some of the work to expedite the process, said Ms. Deacon. There are 15 years, we began to hear about ergonomics and physical health at work. Today, the time has come to protect the mental health of our employees. Too many bosses believe it is personal problems they must not discuss with their employees. But it is precisely this kind of discomfort that discourages people from seeking help.”

A new standard was born

On 16 January 2013, the first National Standard of Canada designed to help improve workplace health and psychological safety has emerged. An initiative welcomed by mental health organizations, while Canada spends just over 7% of its health budget on mental health.

Free and voluntary, the standard provides tools for companies to prevent psychological damage of certain risk factors linked to the work. “The standard provides a reference framework several management practices: recognition, civility, respect, conflict management, workload, participation in decisions, says Claudine Ducharme, a member of the drafting committee of the standard. It also offers advice to encourage the return to work after a stop associated with a mental health problem. ”

May 13, Morneau Sheppel launched the tool point on mental health in order to support employers in the process.

“It is a questionnaire, the results provide an overview of the situation, in addition to providing a comparison with the results of another company in the same industry, says Ms. Ducharme, associated services- advice on health and group insurance Morneau Sheppel. After self-rated policies, a company can identify the risk factors set priorities and move forward with activities and interventions.”

Among the many measures implemented by Bell Canada include mental health in mandatory training for each of its 4,000 staff.

“They learn what to say, what to ask, what resources and suggest how to endure the problems, alleges Mary Deacon. Ultimately, the length of absences and the relapse rate associated with mental health problems have decreased.”

SUNNYBROOK HEALTH SCIENCES CENTRE - Bell Let's TalkTORONTO, Jan. 22, 2014 /CNW/ – “Bell Let’s Talk and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre today announced a new partnership in support of youth mental health – the $1 million Bell Canada Chair in Adolescent Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

Dr. Amy Cheung, a prominent youth psychiatrist and researcher at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, has been named the inaugural Chair, leading research that will give doctors the necessary tools to better assess a teen’s mental health. …”

Youth psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

depression in childrenAs Canada’s leading site for youth mental health, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre houses Canada’s largest Youth Psychiatry Division and oversees North America’s largest ‘mood and anxiety disorders’ clinic for adolescents.

Sunnybrook’s Division of Youth Psychiatry offers state-of-the-art clinical care while leading innovative research to improve treatment options and health outcomes for young people with complex cases of mood and anxiety disorders.

Clinically, the division serves young people between 14 and 18 years of age, both as short/medium-term inpatients and/or as outpatients.

As a provincial resource for adolescent mental health, the division accepts referrals from physicians and institutions located anywhere in the province.

Mary holds a BA and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Foundation.
Steve Harvey, dean of the John Molson School of Business and Mary Deacon, chair of the Bell Let’s Talk initiative, discuss mental health. The event, held on April 18, 2013, was part of the Concordia University – Globe and Mail national conversation series on aging well.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is January 28

The Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative is a national charitable program that promotes mental health across Canada with significant funding for community care, research and workplace best practices, and fights the stigma around mental illness with the high-profile Bell Let’s Talk Day. To date, Bell has already committed to invest $62,043,289.30 in Canadian mental health based on Bell Let’s Talk Day participation. Since 2010, Bell has committed $67.5 million to mental health initiatives in Canada.

About Bell

Bell is Canada’s largest communications company, providing consumers and business customers with wireless, TV, Internet, home phone and business communications services. Bell Media is Canada’s premier multimedia company with leading assets in television, radio and digital media. Bell is wholly owned by Montréal’s BCE Inc. (TSX, NYSE: BCE). For more information, please visit



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A Celebration of Women™

welcomes this powerhouse into our global alumni with open arms, looking forward to future collaborations, bettering the lives of all women, especially young women and girls, with her focus on mental health awareness, education and removing the stigma of this human condition.



Brava Mary!


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