On Friday evening October 22nd Nancy Hall receives the most prestigious award the mental health community can award anyone. The C M Hincks Award presented by the Canadian Mental Health Association at a special gala and awards dinner, is the equivalent of an Oscar or Giller or NHL Most Valuable Player – but alas without the promotion and widespread appreciation.
Nancy is royalty in the kingdom of disability. She was the first ever appointed Mental Health Ombudsman in British Columbia – and the last. The provincial government eliminated her position in 2001 but Nancy, in keeping with her regal manner, worked to ensure her dismissal didn't become a point of contention between government and the mental health community. There were and are enough issues to pursue. She maintained her dignity throughout, kept all lines of communications open with government and lifted the quality of discussion to a higher level.
I know for a fact she continues to meet with Premier Campbell – testimony to her determination to stick to the issues and nourish all relationships inside and outside government.
Nancy summons people – to dialogue and discussion and into collaboration. An invitation from her is revered. Her span of interests include: mental health and well being of course but also, social innovation, health promotion, senior's and women's health, homelessness, belonging and…you get the picture.
Like all royalty, it's a family affair. One of her talented siblings has a mental illness which likely propelled her toward a Doctorate in medical science and years of teaching, committee work, position papers and research. It is often hard to reconcile Nancy the respected academic and disciplined researcher with Nancy the gritty advocate and tireless convenor.
Nancy is up for any challenges as her career testifies. She is facing a particularly tough one right now as her cancer has metasticized. Damm.
Still her curiosity is insatiable – seldom does a week go by without a new reference, link, insight or initiative directed to her followers and admirers. And to everyone's delight her inner beauty is even more noticeable, magnifying her outer beauty as the accompanying photo reveals.
She is well decorated. Just a few weeks ago, British Columbia awarded her, CMHA's Leadership Award. She has spread her expertise and experience at the feet of community advocates. And her dreams as well. She envisages nothing short of a transformed mental health system in our post carbon world – one that walks besides people – that doesn't medicalize or marginalize – and which lifts them to their true majesty.
We best tread softly, lest we tread on Nancy's dreams.
Had I the heaven's embroided cloths
Enwrought with golden and silver light
I would spread the cloths under your feet.
But I, being poor have only my dreams
I have spread my dreams under your feet
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
William Butler Yeats