Deborah Gillis: On the Importance of Our Mental Health and Championing Women’s Initiatives

Enjoy this insightful conversation with Deborah Gillis.  Her life’s work is an example for us all to realize that we CAN make a difference – in causes that we are passionate about, regardless of obstacles that may be in our way.

Deborah is  President and CEO of CAMH Foundation – the Center for Addiction and Mental Health based in Toronto.  A recognized thought leader on  gender equality, diversity and inclusion, Deborah has dedicated her career to driving social  change. Deborah’s unique blend of passion, strategic vision and entrepreneurial spirit is helping  her lead CAMH Foundation in transforming how Canadians understand and address mental  illness, in the workplace and in society. 
Deborah’s early work in the public sector focused on employment equity, anti-racism and  LGBTQI rights. She went on to become a consultant and practice leader with two global professional service firms. Deborah also worked in the Nova Scotia government, and stood as a  candidate for elected office. During her time in politics, she first truly understood the power of  role models—and the urgent need for more of them—to inspire girls and young women. 

In her previous role as President & CEO of Catalyst, a global non-profit, Deborah advised some  of the world’s most powerful CEOs and leading companies on how to accelerate and advance  women into leadership. 

In 2016, Deborah was named as one of Canadian Business magazine’s 10 Most Powerful  Business People and was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal. In 2017, she was  appointed to the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and  Business Leaders.

You can learn about CAMH and find Deborah here:

Here are some of her key takeaways: 

  1. When you’re going through something, recognize that asking for help is a demonstration of your own strength and is the right thing to do. 
  2. Initiatives such as Womenmind help us close the gender gap in our understanding of women’s mental health and to help advance the careers of really talented women scientists. 
  3. Suicide remains one of the deeply stigmatized issues in this mental health space. It’s important to open the conversation on suicide. Having role models, who say to you – you’re not alone in this, is a really powerful tool for people, that offers them hope. 
  4. It is so important to  have organizations develop a mental health strategy. More importantly to use their positions of leadership to vulnerably talk about their own experiences. 
  5. Do not underestimate your own hard work, your own courage. You weren’t lucky – you created the conditions for that success with your work and your passion and your commitment. 
  6. People from the outside will offer their advice, but they often don’t know and understand what is your personal motivation, what fills you up, what brings you joy and satisfaction. The key thing not to get distracted from those other voices.
  7. Our choices, whatever they are, are the choices that are right for us!  What matters to you? What fills you up? What brings you joy, what brings you purpose? Follow that! No one else can define that for us!
  8. Be proud of the impact you leave on other people, and hope that the things you do or contribute or put out their in the world have somehow made it better for someone else. How can we make it better for someone else? 

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