Sask. se­na­tor hon­oured as a dif­fer­ence-maker

One hun­dred and fifty fel­low Cana­di­ans se­lected

Moose Jaw Times Herald - - COMING UP - MICHAEL JOEL-HANSEN

Saskatchewan’s Se­na­tor Denise Bat­ters has been rec­og­nized for her work on men­tal health.

Bat­ters, along with 150 fel­low Cana­di­ans, was named by the Cen­tre of Ad­dic­tion and Men­tal Health (CAMH) as a dif­fer­ence-maker.

“I am very hon­oured to have been rec­og­nized by this pres­ti­gious na­tional men­tal health or­gan­i­sa­tion,” Bat­ters said when reached at her of­fice in Ot­tawa.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion so­licited nom­i­na­tions from peo­ple coast to coast and the se­na­tor was one of the peo­ple who made the cut. Bat­ters was cho­sen from a list of 3,700 fel­low Cana­di­ans. She added that she was also hon­oured to be men­tioned in the same breath as some of the oth­ers who ended up mak­ing the list.

“To be one of the peo­ple in the class with some­body like Clara Hughes, who I think is just an amaz­ing cham­pion for men­tal health nationwide, is re­ally hum­bling,” she said.

Be­ing in the Se­nate has given Bat­ters the abil­ity to work on a va­ri­ety of fronts in re­gards to sui­cide and men­tal health, which have the po­ten­tial to af­fect the whole coun­try. Bat­ters added that the Se­nate has through­out its his­tory been able to do good work on the men­tal health front. This in­cludes the first com­pre­hen­sive na­tional study on the is­sue in 2007. Dur­ing her time in the na­tion’s up­per cham­ber, the se­na­tor has been able to use her po­si­tion to fight against leg­is­la­tion that she felt would have made cer­tain is­sues around sui­cide worse. As an ex­am­ple, she cites her op­po­si­tion to the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s first as­sisted-dy­ing bill, which she said would have given men­tally ill peo­ple ac­cess to the pro­ce­dure.

“These are treat­able con­di­tions, they are not in­cur­able,” she said.

Bat­ters said that in the in terms of study­ing men­tal health, the Se­nate has been ahead of the curve and able to do im­por­tant work. In part, she cred­its this to the Se­nate’s pro­ce­dures, which al­low more time to study is­sues and do na­tional stud­ies. Bat­ters ex­plained that be­ing a se­na­tor has also given her the chance to work with peo­ple with whom she would not have oth­er­wise.

“Be­ing a se­na­tor al­lows me to col­lab­o­rate with some great Cana­di­ans out­side the po­lit­i­cal sphere,” she said.

Among the peo­ple she counts her­self lucky to have come into con­tact with through her work are broad­caster Michael Lands­berg and for­mer Gov­er­nor Gen­eral David John­son. She also ex­plained that her col­leagues have helped her along the way.

“There are many sen­a­tors who have been sup­port­ive of my work and they as­sist me how­ever they can,” she said.

One of her fel­low sen­a­tors who has been es­pe­cially help­ful is Jac­ques De­mers. Bat­ters said that since be­ing ap­pointed to the Se­nate, she has got­ten lots of sup­port from her late hus­band’s, for­mer Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Dave Bat­ters, col­leagues, in­clud­ing cur­rent Con­ser­va­tive Party leader An­drew Scheer and for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper. Bat­ters ap­pre­ci­ated the speech he read at her hus­band’s fu­neral that was later pub­lished in the Globe and Mail.

“It was so im­por­tant, a speech deal­ing with, very openly, with the topic of men­tal ill­ness and sui­cide but also talk­ing about what a great per­son and col­league Dave was,” she said.

Bat­ters was com­pli­men­tary of the fact that Harper did not let the way her hus­band died de­fine the way in which he was re­mem­bered. Bat­ters was also proud of how her late hus­band pub­li­cally han­dled his bat­tle with men­tal ill­ness, which ul­ti­mately claimed his life in 2009. She said it was es­pe­cially im­por­tant that he de­cided to make the rea­sons for his de­ci­sion to not seek re­elec­tion pub­lic.

“When Dave an­nounced he wouldn’t run again in 2008 when the elec­tion was called, he put out a re­lease de­tail­ing why he was not able to run again, an­nounc­ing he was suf­fer­ing with anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion and that was re­ally ground-break­ing,” she said.

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