One of Canada’s Oldest Non-Profits
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is one of the oldest national, charitable organizations in Canada and the oldest national mental health charity. CMHA was founded in 1918 by Dr. Clarence M. Hincks, Dr. Charles K. Clarke, and Clifford W. Beers as the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene. The original goals of the organization centred around war recruits, mental examination of post-war immigrants, prevention, and support for adequate facilities and care for the treatment of mental illness.
Dr. Hincks became director of the association in 1924. His personal experience with depression and empathy for others with mental illness, coupled with a profound knowledge of medicine and early twentieth-century psychological developments in Europe revolutionized the conditions and treatment of mental health patients in Canada.
CMHA is uniquely positioned in Canada as a charity that brings together experience and expertise on community-based mental health promotion and support for people with mental illnesses. We are unique not only in our approach but also in our ability to speak to a broad range of issues surrounding mental health and mental illness.
CMHA BC’s Beginnings
CMHA’s BC Division (CMHA BC) was founded 1952, with the assistance of Clarence M. Hincks, and officially incorporated on October 6, 1953. The office started with a federal mental health grant which was gradually diminished over three years as other sources of funding were found. CMHA BC volunteers became involved in the support of patients at Riverview Hospital and ran the thrift store. At one point, CMHA BC had employed more people with mental illness than any division in the country.
Throughout its history, CMHA BC has advocated for changes to legislation and policy affecting people with a mental illness that ensured the availability of community alternatives, access to housing, and income supports. Through this work, CMHA BC has played an important role in the reform of the mental health care system in BC.
CMHA BC is proud to be part of a network of CMHA branches in communities across BC whose grassroots involvement and direct services – such as housing, employment services, crisis lines, and support groups to name a few – have touched the lives of countless British Columbians.
CMHA of Northern BC Branch
The Prince George branch of CMHA has been operating and providing services and advocacy for the citizens of Prince George since 1962. In 1981, CMHA Prince George began to provide vocational rehabilitation services to individuals living with a mental illness through our Mary Harper Achievement Centre. This centre, now our Connections Clubhouse, is run out of a cozy environment, and offers a full range of social, recreational and vocational services and activities to individuals who have mental health issues. In 1985 we began to offer subsidized housing to individuals with mental illness, and to date this has grown to include 24 subsidized housing units with one group home in operation and 19 single apartments. In 1987 CMHA began to provide outreach skills to individuals living with a mental illness. In 1993 we began offering the services of a peer support person who assists individuals living with a mental illness in accessing the resources they need to live as independently as possible. In 2020 we began the process of changing our branch’s name from CMHA Prince George to more accurately reflect the wider geographic region in which it serves and the reach of its mental health services and programs available to Northern British Columbians. In March 2021 we officially became CMHA of Northern BC. Much of our work would not be possible without the financial partnership of BC Housing Management Commission and the Northern Health Authority.