I thank Mark for our brief conversation the other day and the opportunity to share his story. He has given me permission to post his articles on our blog….look for them as I post them. Very insightful!!
Informed by his direct experience with stigma and the mental health care system as an adolescent, Mark dedicated his life from an early age to opening minds and creating change. He has served as the youngest President of a provincial Canadian Mental Health Association division in history. He is currently the youngest ever board member for the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Mark Henick was born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Diagnosed with depression and an anxiety disorder following his first suicide attempt in the eighth grade, it was not long before Mark discovered the profound opportunity for advocacy through recovery.
As a high school student, he wanted to speak with his peers about the challenges of living with mental illness, including a history of multiple suicide attempts and hospitalizations. He was promptly denied.
Mark’s response was his first formal entry into mental health advocacy. It came in the form of a letter to the local newspaper, critical of the systemic stigma which prevented people from speaking openly about their experiences with mental illness. The next morning a television news crew visited the high school, and a passionate advocate for mental health was born.
While studying in New Brunswick, Mark organized and presented four annual, university-wide lectures on his experience with the mental health care system. Over this time he also served on the board of directors for the provincial division of the Canadian Mental Health Association, and he organized awareness raising events such as campus mental health weeks, a full production by Ballet Jorgen Canada, and a variety show.
In his final year of university, Mark was elected to serve as the youngest president of a provincial Canadian Mental Health Association division. In this capacity he also served as the youngest member of the CMHA National board of directors. As president of CMHA New Brunswick, Mark worked on a committee of the provincial government to develop the first province-wide mental health strategy.
Mark was selected to serve as the youngest member of the board of directors for the Mental Health Commission of Canada. In this role, he has been involved with the board-level oversight of such landmark national projects as the first ever national mental health strategy for Canada, and the largest housing-first research project in North America.
Mark spoke at TEDxToronto 2013, becoming one of the most discussed speakers at the conference. His Why We Choose Suicide presentation went on to become the highest viewed TED Talk of the 2013 Toronto conference.
Mark lives in Toronto with his wife. He works as a case manager in the Transitional Youth Program of CMHA Toronto, serves on various committees relating to mental health, and continues his work on the board of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.