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Mental Health Week 2024 – Media Release

Despite 89% of British Columbians claiming to be compassionate, only 14% of British Columbians took action in the past year to alleviate hardship

CMHA releases new data on compassion for Mental Health Week

Prince George, British Columbia, May 6, 2024 – Canadians are often recognized globally for their compassion and kindness; however, new data may suggest otherwise. A recent study by the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) found that while 89% of British Columbians claim to be compassionate, only 14% British Columbians have taken active steps to alleviate hardship in the past year. 

Compassion, defined as the practice of meeting suffering – whether our own or that of others – with kindness,[1] is often confused with empathy. While empathy involves sensing, feeling and understanding of another’s experience, compassion goes beyond empathy into the realm of taking action.

“Compassion is the emotional response to the struggles of others combined with a real, authentic desire to help lessen their suffering and respond with care,” says Margaret Eaton, National CEO, CMHA. “With so much hardship going on in the world, compassion is needed now more than ever.” 

The survey conducted by Maru Public Opinion found that although the majority 69% of British Columbians say that when they see someone struggling, they feel compelled to help, 62% of British Columbians admit feeling overwhelmed by the issues and unsure where to begin.

“We’re seeing a lot of people wanting to be more compassionate, but not knowing how. The good news is that compassion is part of our human nature and can be learned and practiced,” explains Eaton. “In fact, giving compassion, receiving compassion, and allowing ourselves to experience self-compassion are all very beneficial to our mental health.”

Demonstrating compassion through caring actions and kindness can positively impact mood and help alleviate feelings of depression.[2] This is because the act of “giving compassion” is closely connected to the release of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone. Research also suggests that compassion is contagious.[3] Experiencing acts of compassion can encourage people to show compassion too, creating a domino effect.

“This Mental Health Week, we also recognize the acts of compassion our community mental health workers across the country offer day in, day out – providing services like mobile mental health crisis response, harm reduction services, housing, and so much more to millions of Canadians,” continues Eaton. 

Practicing compassion is fundamental to creating a more just and equitable society. It helps to establish trust, strengthen relationships, and cultivate a sense of community. In fact, 80% of British Columbians think Canada could be a more compassionate country by doing more to help those in need through social support programs and better laws/policies.

“With escalating social inequities and inequalities in our society, practicing compassion becomes ever more critical,” says Elaine Laberge, Executive Director of CMHA Northern BC. As Glen Schmidt, Board Chair for CMHA Northern BC notes, “According to the Government of Canada, one in three Canadians will experience mental illness during their lives. Therefore, more than ever, we need compassion to support individuals, families, and communities affected by mental illness.”

The release of this data coincides with CMHA’s 73rd Mental Health Week (May 6-12). This year’s theme “Healing through Compassion”explores how compassion connects us all. To learn more and get involved, visit or

Schmidt says, “Mental Health Week is an important time to reflect on mental illness and mental health. CMHA in Northern BC will be recognizing and celebrating Mental Health Week with a public event, with food provided by our Two Rivers Catering social enterprise, at the Connections Wellness Centre (2816 Norwood Street) in Prince George on Wednesday, May 8 from noon to 3pm.

CMHA Northern BC

Since 1963, we have been providing mental health and substance use support to northern BC. Our vision is a Canada where mental health is a universal human right. As a branch member of a nation-wide leader and champion for mental health, CMHA of Northern BC works to ensure that all people in Canada experience good mental health and well-being.

About the Survey

This Maru Public Opinion study commissioned by the Canadian Mental Health Association is from a survey conducted April 4-5, 2024, among a random selection of 1,507 Canadian adults who are Maru Voice Canada online panellists. The results have been weighted by education, age, gender, and region (and, in Quebec, language) to match the population according to Census data which ensures the sample is representative of the entire adult population of Canada. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size has an estimated margin of error (which measures sampling variability) of +/- 2.5%, 19 times out of 20.


For media inquiries:

Elaine Laberge

Executive Director, CMHA Northern BC

250 649 8222

Glen Schmidt

Board Chair, CMHA Northern BC

250 640 6397

[1] Neff, K. (2020, July 9). What is self-compassion?. Self-compassion.

[2] Leaviss J, Uttley L. Psychotherapeutic benefits of compassion-focused therapy: an early systematic review. Psychological Medicine. 2015;45(5):927-945. doi:10.1017/S0033291714002141


Learn more on our Mental Health Week 2024 page!

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