The Slaight Family Foundation, one of Toronto’s most wide-reaching and generous philanthropic family foundations, is divvying up $30 million to 19 Canadian organizations offering mental health services to people experiencing all kinds of distress and challenges.
“We know COVID-19 has exacerbated mental health issues across the country, putting huge stress on our hospitals and organizations providing services,” said the Foundation’s president and CEO Gary Slaight in a statement. “We hope this support will help alleviate some of these stresses, reduce hospital visits, provide additional services for those in need of mental health support and develop new models of care and service for others to emulate.”
Among those benefitting from the extraordinary donation are specified mental health programs for vulnerable 2SLGBTQI people, isolated seniors, French-speaking Black youth, kids with disabilities and their families, Indigenous youth, and people with substance use disorders (see the full list of programs below).
The Slaights generosity will provide new or enhanced services at a time when many Canadians are dealing with various mental health issues that can arise from financial loss, illness, death of a loved one, job insecurity, isolation, or compounding problems from pre-existing or previously diagnosed mental health issues.
According to statistics delivered with The Slaight Family Foundation press release, “Suicide is the leading health related cause of death among young people accounting for 25% of deaths. Children and youth in care are almost four times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder and 17 times more likely to be hospitalized compared to children in the general population.
“2SLGBTQI people are also falling through the gaps in Canada’s mental health system due to discrimination and a lack of cultural competency and Kids Help Phone has seen a 137% increase since last year with some of the most distressed users experiencing racism,’’ it continues. “There are an alarming 46 deaths per week from accidental opioid poisoning and overdose is now one of Canada’s leading causes of preventable deaths. Seniors too are facing higher risks of developing mental health issues due to the social isolation resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Kids Help Phone is receiving $1.5 million from the Slaights for the creation of Rise UP, Canada’s first national bilingual e-mental health service for Black young people, in partnership with Black youth and Black-led organizations. In a statement, Katherine Hay, president and CEO of Kids Help Phone, said, “When COVID-19 created a crisis like no other experienced in Canada, our youth and their mental health was impacted. Black youth have been underserved in general and have been greatly impacted by Covid – and we will not, we cannot, leave them behind. The unwavering commitment of The Slaight Family Foundation will help right tomorrow for Black youth.”
Also included in the recipients, SickKids Foundation will get $10 million to establish the Slaight Mental Health Inpatient Unit in the New SickKids re-build, and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) will receive $2.5 million to create a new 25-bed unit for transitional aged youth (16 to 25 years) in its new McCain Complex Care & Recovery Building.
“This year has tested the mental healthcare system to its limits,” said CAMH president and CEO Dr. Catherine Zahn in a statement. “COVID-19 has had an impact on mental health that’s unique in its breadth and depth. Youth, seniors, disadvantaged individuals and populations, and healthcare workers are all suffering. This newest gift from The Slaight Family Foundation will support us to do our best – for those most in need – right now.”
Added SickKids Hospital president and CEO Ronald Cohn in his statement: “In recent years, SickKids has seen increased acuity, severity and risk of suicidality at younger ages,” “Thanks to the transformational support of The Slaight Family Foundation we will rise to the challenge of this child and adolescent mental health crisis. This gift will allow us to double the size of our current inpatient mental health unit, ensuring the province’s most complex patients receive the highest quality care. This is a wonderfully fitting legacy of the Slaight Family’s tremendous history with SickKids, which reaches back decades.”
The Slaight Family Foundation was established in 2008 by John Allan Slaight, a broadcast pioneer and prominent philanthropist. Through his generosity, the Foundation supports charitable initiatives in the areas of healthcare, at-risk youth international development, social services and culture.
Since 2013, the Foundation thorough vetting to identify needs has led to impactful and life-changing initiatives, starting with a gift of $50 million split between five Toronto hospitals to support priority healthcare issues, followed by millions more in donations to address global humanitarianism, healthy development of children and youth across Canada, support for Indigenous issues, a seniors’ initiative to help keep seniors in their homes and communities, and, last year’s initiative to support more than one million women and girls globally.
The complete list of the recipients is published online at Samaritanmag.com