When our Agenda on the Road series was winding down, and we began to rethink how we would engage our audience across the province, we envisioned leaving the studio, not spurred by geography, but rather by a cause or idea that resonates in people's lives.

And there are few topics which affect as many people as mental health issues. Whether or not you are the one in five Canadians who will have a mental illness during your lifetime, you will certainly have a child, parent, sibling, relative, friend, colleague, or neighbour who will. While we’ve come a long way in understanding more about mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it, we still have far to go.

What we here at The Agenda, indeed TVO, hope to accomplish in the months ahead, is to engage our viewsers and bring about a better understanding of mental health. To help us to that end, we have partnered with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). What this partnership will bring to our Agenda audience is access to the knowledge capital at CAMH, as well as engaging live chats, Q&As, and blog posts from the medical front line; from the community leaders at the world-renowned facility.

We even took our partnership to new heights in January, in a basketball challenge with CAMH clients at their Queen Street site.

The Agenda team after a spirited afternoon of basketball. 

Aside from basketball, we’ve been engaging with CAMH professionals and clients since the beginning of this season, in order to enrich our own understanding of the issues, and the mental health community around CAMH.

To that effect, on Tuesday, March 6, 2012, we began the first of our bi-weekly mental health-themed discussions. On Monday, April 16, TVO will be launching our permanent Mental Health Matters microsite, with a plethora of mental health stories, using the depth and richness of our archived content, along with additional resources. All of this will culminate in Mental Health Matters Week at TVO, in association with CAMH, May 7-13, 2012. (Which will also coincide with Canadian Mental Health Week.) Look for five nights of original programming, both in studio and with studio audiences (more information on how you can join us will come in the days ahead). 

And the programming and web content won’t begin and end there, with us. Big IdeasTVOKidsTVOParentsAllan Gregg in ConversationSaturday Night at the Movies, and TVO Doc Studio will also focus on Mental Health Matters, both online and on air in April and during Mental Health Week.

We kicked off our mental health coverage with noted British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, author of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World a book examining the relationship between the brain’s two hemispheres. He sat down for an interview with Steve Paikin, and then joined our roundtable for a discussion on where mental illness resides: Is it in our biology? Or does it occur because of social pressures? In other words, we started small, with a simple debate on nature versus nurture. 

We also hosted a live chat to coincide with our program that night, and it was a lively discussion. You can read a transcript of the chat below:

We hope you've enjoyed our mental health programming so far, and will continue to watch in the weeks leading up to Mental Health Matters Week.