OCA and members contribute $1 million for mental health

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Campaign to focus on depression research

Ottawa Construction News staff writer

The Ottawa construction sector is making a major mark in the fight against mental illness with a $1 million commitment to mental health research at The Royal Ottawa Hospital.

Spearheaded by the Ottawa Construction Association (OCA) and two of its members, the contribution represents the largest-ever philanthropic gift to mental health made by the group. Funding will go towards depression research at The Royal and acquiring new brain imaging technology that will lead to earlier diagnosis and faster treatment of mental illness, the OCA says in a news release.

The OCA’s $250,000 pledge is matched by its chair, Paul McCarney, president of Greenbelt Construction (a division of the Tomlinson Group) and further boosted by a $500,000 donation from Kathleen Grimes and Ersin Ozerdinc of Site Preparation Ltd.

The combined donation was announced at the OCA’s Annual Chairman’s Reception at the Centurion Conference and Event Centre in Ottawa on Nov. 11, signaling the group’s concern over the economic and human toll depression and other mental health disorders place on business.

“Talking openly about depression and the stigma of mental illness is a real challenge,” OCA president John DeVries wrote in a Construction Comment article.  “Over the course of the next five years, the OCA will seek industry leaders to step up and talk openly and get broader discussions going”

This is why the OCA decided to bring Michael Landsberg of TSN’s Off The Record to address the industry because “Michael is a frank and honest speaker about mental illness – specifically his on struggles with anxiety and depression,” DeVries wrote.

Campaign to focus on depression research-2

“I shared once on Off The Record, and I found that in particular men responded, saying they had never heard another man talk about his illness,” Landsberg is quoted as saying in an interview.  “And the fact that I talked about it candidly and openly without being ashamed – without showing weakness – empowered them to go and share with someone else.”

The OCA’s announcement has launched a sector challenge to match these lead gifts to help The Royal acquire the technology and fully fund its research goals.

“The construction sector in Ottawa has a strong history of generosity,” OCA chair Paul McCarney said. “Today, we are proud to focus our support on mental health research at The Royal. This is a cause that affects our families and our workplaces, so it hits very close to home. We are delighted to be supporting The Royal and the people and families they serve.”

Depression is the leading disease burden in Canada and suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth — yet only about five per cent of research funding is directed to mental health research.

The OCA announcement is a boon to an ambitious $18 million research goal of The Royal. which represents roughly 75 per cent of its current $25 million Campaign for Mental Health.

Every day, 500,000 people across Canada do not show up for work due to a mental health issue, costing the economy $51 billion per year.

Brain imaging will allow scientists and researchers at The Royal to peer into a living, working brain, providing a better understanding of the root causes of depression and other mental illnesses. Focussing research through cutting-edge imaging technologies will lead to faster diagnosis time, more accurate treatment and a greater likelihood of recovery so that people can get back to work and living fuller, more engaged lives.
“Philanthropy has the power to transform lives,” said Andrée Steel, president and CEO of The Royal’s Foundation.

“To have earned the trust and loyalty of Ottawa’s construction sector in such a major way sends a strong signal that mental health is a cause worthy of significant investment,” he said. “We want to get people better faster and this tremendous gesture will help us to do that and ensure that the work we do now will transform lives in the future for the 1 in 5 in our community who suffer from mental illness.”

For more information go to Royal Ottawa’s Campaign for Mental Health website.

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