Recognized as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016)
By Kristina Leung and Richard Yerema, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 23, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why CAMH / Centre for Addiction and Mental Health was selected as one of Canada's Best Diversity Employers (2016):
- CAMH manages "Employment Works!", a unique program to help individuals with mental health or addiction access meaningful employment through skills development, including resume writing, cover letters, referrals and other educational resources -- also as part of the program, CAMH partners with TD Bank to organize education sessions on how clients can be competitive when applying for jobs at the bank and elsewhere
- CAMH supports the "Out of This World Cafe" at three of its locations -- cafes are operated by Working for Change and provide employment opportunities for the psychiatric consumer/survivor community
- CAMH maintains a health equity department, which works to create equal opportunities for good health and reduce differences in health among population groups -- the department recently produced CAMH's first health equity report on access and outcomes of services for ethnic and racial groups, and offers a University of Toronto accredited certificate program in diversity and health equity
At CAMH, demonstrating that all are welcome
Growing up in one of Toronto's poorer neighbourhoods, Michael Antwi noticed early on that not everyone got to use the public services and amenities that many other Canadians take for granted. That observation turned into an academic study of inequality that led ultimately to a position at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) where his passion for fair treatment for all is a natural fit.
"It was a pleasant surprise to see how seriously CAMH takes diversity," says Antwi. "We all have different backgrounds and experiences and we take all those experiences into account."
Antwi had arrived at Canada's largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital after several previous jobs had provided less scope for positive change than he'd anticipated. Today, he is a Research Coordinator in CAMH's Social Equity and Health Research Department where he works on a variety of projects. These delve into a range of topics while sharing a similar goal: improving the lives of those who experience addiction and mental illness, including those from marginalized groups that traditionally have had problems accessing high-quality, appropriate care.
Research shows that factors such as gender, race, sexual orientation, immigration status, physical or mental disability, income and education can negatively influence a person's health, access to services and the quality of care received.
CAMH established its Health Equity Office, which is dedicated to eradicating such disparities, in March 2011. It was a logical step for the Toronto hospital, which had made diversity a permanent organization-wide priority over a decade before. Diversity - and its conceptual cousin, inclusivity - permeate every aspect of the organization, from providing a safe, accessible and supportive environment for staff, clients and the broader community to ensuring that all CAMH policies share compatible goals and approaches.
This commitment manifests itself in myriad ways. "We don't only promote diversity, we celebrate it," says Kim Bellissimo, Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development. "It's a way for us to actively demonstrate that everyone is welcome here."
These celebrations often mark key occasions, including Black History Month, International Women's Day, National Aboriginal Awareness Week, LGBTIQ Pride Week and Disability Awareness Month.
CAMH also welcomes patients from a number of linguistic groups by communicating with them in their own language. In addition to supplying written material in 50 languages and dialects, professional interpreters, who are also trained in healthcare terminology, are always available.
The CAMH staff is as diverse as the populations it serves - and as Antwi sees it, that benefits everyone. Some clients, he notes, "may be more receptive to care, if the care provider looks like them." Equally important is the message it sends to employees themselves.
"Being part of such a diverse group allows me to learn from different people and exposes me to different ways of thinking about things," says Antwi. "That's huge."
CAMH also champions education, policy development and social change so that its patient population may be fully included in the broader population. It manages Employment
Works!, a program that demonstrates to employers that people do recover from poor mental health and that most can return to meaningful employment.
Employment Works! recruits people with lived experience of mental health and/or addiction challenges into vacant CAMH positions, including posts such as Peer Support Worker or Community Ambassador. It also helps clients and others in the community to find external employment. As part of the program, CAMH partners with George Brown College to organize education sessions for employers on hiring and supporting those with lived experience with mental illness and addiction in their workplaces.
Bellissimo, who during her career has seen a variety of organizations implement diversity policies, is proud of what CAMH has achieved. "We offer a level of inclusivity I've never experienced before," she says. "It stands out because it's all done in a such a professional way."