Recently, CAMH announced their new Not Suicide. Not Today campaign. At the core of this campaign, is Dr. Juveria Zaheer, a suicide prevention researcher and CAMH psychiatrist. Dr. Juveria Zaheer often sees people on the worst day of their life, and makes a daily difference in her work with people in crisis. We spoke to her this week to learn more about the new campaign.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
CAMH Foundation is the fundraising arm of CAMH, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. CAMH is Canada’s largest mental health hospital and a world-leading research centre in its field. We are uniquely positioned to play a significant role in preventing suicide, which is the focus on our current campaign, Not suicide. Not today. Talking openly about suicide, when done in a hopeful and respectful way, has the potential to change—and save—lives. Not Suicide, Not Today is a promise that we will do everything we can to make today not the day we lose someone else to suicide.
What problem does it aim to solve?
At CAMH, we know that suicide is preventable and that we must take action. From the smallest gestures to the biggest cultural changes and everything in between, this campaign will encourage hope and action to ensure that no one else loses their life or loved one to suicide. CAMH researchers are advancing suicide prevention projects across a range of ages and illnesses. As a leading mental health hospital and authority for mental health, CAMH feels a deep sense of responsibility to support the reduction of suicide rates.
- We are the top mental health research hospital in Canada.
- We train 25% of all Canadian psychiatrists and 50% of all those in Ontario.
- We have more beds for people with mental illness and addiction than all other Toronto
When did you start/join it?
I was approached by the CAMH Foundation about 18 months ago as they were hoping to build a campaign focused on suicide prevention. As a suicide prevention researcher and CAMH psychiatrist, this seemed like a great opportunity to lend my support.
What made you want to get involved?
The CAMH foundation has been a real champion of my career and I am so proud to work at CAMH, providing mental health care and support on the front lines, and working with patients and families in suicide prevention research. I was so impressed at the foundation’s commitment to ensuring that the campaign followed best practices in suicide awareness campaigns, and their commitment to highlighting all of the ways we can work together to prevent suicide, which includes addressing racism, discrimination, access to care, and financial and social inequality.
What was the situation like when you started?
People were really afraid to get this wrong. I was one of them! The work and consultation with people with lived experience, affected communities, health care providers, and families was remarkable.
How has it changed since?
I have been so heartened by the reaction to this campaign – I believe that it can change the way we talk and think about suicide, while allowing for investment in research breakthroughs, improved access to clinical care, dignified spaces for patients and families, and addressing the social determinants of suicide.
What more needs to be done?
Changing the perception that suicide is preventable is a major shift. We all bring our own bias to the table. By exploring our own biases, we can unpack why suicide is so misunderstood and shrouded in silence and stigma.
How can our readers help?
I encourage everyone to visit CAMH.ca and there you can read the stories of researchers and clinicians like me, who are working to reduce suicide rates. You can also read stories from real Canadians, who share their experiences and journeys of recovery. They’re incredibly moving stories.
Do you have any events coming up?
Unfortunately no, but later this fall, there will be a very big milestone as CAMH opens two beautiful new buildings at Queen and Ossington. One of which will house the Gerald Sheff and Shanitha Kachan Emergency Department, which is currently at College and Spadina. If anyone reading this needs care or anyone you love needs care, please go to our Emergency Room.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
Naseeha mental health is a GTA-based mental health hotline and more, providing culturally informed support for young Muslims in mental health crisis. They also offer workshops, web therapy, and text-based supports.
Another organization I have a personal connection to is Wild Ontario, which focuses on educating the public on the human impact on wildlife and provides care for birds that cannot be returned to the wild. My younger brother who is now a resident veterinarian volunteered for this organization for several years and the work they do is so important.