Accessing Mental Health Services

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012


Published on June 9, 2012

The battle against the stigmatization of mental illness has been a long, arduous one. But Linda Mohri, the intake director at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), says that it’s a fight that’s slowly being won. “We’re certainly seeing an increase in demand for services as people become more comfortable talking about these problems,” she says.

However, with one in five people in Canada living with mental illness, many still aren’t receiving the support, care or treatment they need. Here’s some advice on knowing when to seek help and where to go. Read full article.


Are you 16 to 29 years old?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Last Friday we launched our new Youth Small Business Program - funded in part by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. The Youth Small Business Program includes a free, two month, evening training program designed to help young entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable small businesses. The program offers:

- Coaching and mentorship

- Self directed learning

- Intensive workshops

- Resources and templates

As part of the launch, Rise hosted Sandra Rotman, Minister Eric Hoskins, and Rise entrepreneurs - each sharing inspirational stories on their connection to the project.

The first iteration of the training program is set to start in mid-September. By the end of the program, youth will have created a viable business plan and will be eligible for Rise financing. Graduates of the Youth Small Business Program will also receive a small grant to help kick-start their businesses!

If you would like to learn more, check out our Youth Small Business Program page. Rise is currently accepting applications for the training program that begins in mid-September.

See photos from Friday’s event at our Facebook page.


Have you filed your taxes?

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Tax time has arrived. To make this task as easy as possible, it is critical to prepare ahead of time. We have assembled some helpful tips below.

Preparation tips:

• Save all of your receipts throughout the year.
• Gather information on what you will need to complete your return and what benefits you are entitled to. For more information visit Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) .
• Do you qualify for the Disability Tax Credit? Find out by filling the Disability Tax credit certificate: T2011. Remember to send your form to CRA before filing your tax return.
• Access your tax information using the My Account service at This year, you will need a CRA user ID and password to use the service. If you don’t already have one, go to and click on the No button to create one.


There are both free and paid resources to help you file your taxes:
• Complete your taxes online through the online free certified software packages.
• Use the paper format by filling out the T1 General 2011 - Income tax and benefit return and sending to CRA. After completing this form, you can also calculate the amount of your return or tax by completing the T1 General 2011 - Federal Worksheet.
• Take advantage of volunteer community clinics. These offer free tax filing services for individuals who meet certain criteria. Refer to the list of volunteer tax preparation clinics in Ontario, choose your location and make an appointment!
• Select a paid service that specializes in filing taxes for people with disabilities.

For more information and resources on taxes for persons with disabilities, visit the dedicated page on CRA site. You can also access automated Tax Information Phone Services (TIPS) by calling 1-800-267-6999.

Do you have a small business idea? What next?

Monday, February 6th, 2012

While some business ideas turn into reality and flourish beyond the entrepreneur’s wildest dreams, others do not. What makes a successful business start up? Entrepreneurs take different paths to nurture their ideas and transform them into successful businesses. In one conversation I had with an entrepreneur, she compared her business to a newborn baby. When she decided on what business to pursue, it felt as if she was expecting. As such, she decided to reference her prenatal activities and thoughts in context of her business. Business development classes (prenatal classes), consultations with experts in similar businesses (doctor appointments), business membership associations (mothers community groups), company and product brand names (baby names) and so on. By so doing, she followed systematic steps towards developing her business idea into a business plan and ultimately implementing a successful small business.

Once you have identified your business idea, research your industry to better understand your product and its potential market. Creating a strong business plan is your next step. Keep in mind that this plan is an invaluable tool to market your business and is often required when presenting your business to funders. Consider attending a small business development program to help you develop a business plan with professional guidance. In Toronto, the Rotman School of Management runs the Small Business Program for Regent Park & Neighbouring Communities, which assists entrepreneurs to convert their business ideas into business plans. This month-long evening program targets entrepreneurs with a practical business idea, who reside in target areas including Regent Park, Moss Park and St. James Town and other neighbouring communities. Other available programs include The Business Abilities Program, Youth Employment Services and the Toronto Business Development Centre - BIZ Futures program . There are also many online resources to assist aspiring entrepreneurs in creating business plans.

Business plan formats may vary depending on the type of business and the target audience for your plan. However, the content should provide the reader with details on:

• Your business and the idea: What do you do? How do you do it? For who?
• Your market: Who is buying? Why do they buy? Who else offers similar products/services?
• Your products/services: What are you selling? At what price? Why is it better than others?
• Your abilities to offer these products/services: Your skills and experiences.
• Your expected income over the next year from gross sales and other income.
• Your expected business costs over the next year. These may include raw materials, labour, insurance, gasoline, utilities, business rent, credit card payments, loan payments etc.
• Your business assets (Examples: Materials, inventory, equipment, furniture, vehicles, accounts receivable etc.) and business liabilities/debts (Examples: Leased vehicles, accounts payable, existing loans, credit card debt etc.)
• Your financing need. How much will you will personally invest in your business (in kind and directly)? How much will you need to borrow? What will the financing be used for? (Examples: purchasing inventory, working capital, equipment, etc.)

By answering these questions, you will be able to:

(i) Understand your market: Knowing your customers and competition will help you position your business for success. You will identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that exist for your new venture.

(ii) Identify gaps in your financing needs: Determine if you require external financing to start your business. Useful financial information that can be extracted from your business plan analysis includes: net worth (assets minus liabilities), cash position (money coming in minus money flowing out) and the breakeven point (the point at which your business generates sufficient sales to pay off its costs).

After identifying financing gaps, your next step is to explore funding options for your business. Among the financing sources to consider are personal savings, funding from family and friends and financing (such as loans) from financial institutions. Research the options: What are the interest rates, available loan amounts and loan terms? Also, remember to maintain a healthy debt level – your business income should be sufficient to cover the business costs and loan instalments.

A financing resource often overlooked in Canada is microfinance – the provision of financial services (i.e. loans, savings, and insurance products) to individuals who are unable to access mainstream bank financing. Organisations providing microfinance services base their lending decision on the character of the entrepreneur, the potential for the business, collateral (items or assets used to secure a loan) and the ability of the entrepreneur to repay the loan. A number of microfinance organisations exist throughout Canada. Some target specific groups such as women, aboriginal communities, people with disabilities and new immigrants, while other programs provide services to larger demographics. Rise Asset Development is an Ontario based microfinance organization that works with entrepreneurs with a history of mental health and/or addiction challenges. As mentioned earlier, a business plan is often a prerequisite for a financing request – another motivation for you to dedicate time in developing a strong and convincing proposal.

Remember that a business plan is a process which should be constantly updated and adapted. This implies that from the onset of developing it, you should start testing your product, albeit on a small scale. During this time, you can evaluate your business to determine what works (and what doesn’t) and remain flexible to adapt to the market. By testing your product and creating a roadmap for your venture, you can successfully convert your small business idea into a viable business.

Adding Dimensions to the ‘Single Story’ of Mental Health Through Social Finance

Friday, January 20th, 2012

By Narinder Dhami

Ouattara is on his second loan. With the first loan, he built a theatre in his community – a small covered space seating over 20 individuals with a large CRT television against the front wall. His subsequent loan was used to add a restaurant to this, his growing entertainment complex in Zorogho - a small village located in Burkina Faso (West Africa). Ouattara’s entrepreneurial drive, coupled with microfinance, enabled him to establish a stable income stream. His business filled a need in the community and became a gathering spot for many. He was able to send his children to school and access medical services for his family.

Ryan is on his second loan too. He runs a variety of web businesses and stays competitive by adapting to the latest trends. After receiving his initial line of credit, allowing him to purchase inventory, Ryan was disbursed an additional round of financing. He was able to leverage this funding, in turn, to establish a credit relationship with a large Canadian bank. Today, Ryan no longer depends on government support (ODSP) payments. He has experienced an increase in his self-esteem and greater integration in the local economy and community. Ryan has received both financing and mentorship through his microfinance program. He has also started to save for a down payment on a future home.

Two entrepreneurs. Two successful businesses. Both were unable to access financing from mainstream financial institutions. Both are driven entrepreneurs with solid business plans to support their growth. Both have experienced economic and social benefits, and were empowered through capital. The difference was the setting: Ouattara is a client of a microfinance organization based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso and Ryan is part of a new targeted domestic microfinance project in Toronto, Canada.

While there are many similarities between domestic and international microfinance, there are also significant differences - one of which is reaching scale. In 2010, upon returning to Canada after working in microfinance throughout West Africa, I joined an innovative pilot exploring domestic microfinancing for entrepreneurs with mental health and addictions challenges within Ontario. Through generous funding from Sandra Rotman, the Rotman School of Management and the Center for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH) collaborated to launch Rise Asset Development (Rise) to provide microfinance and mentorship to aspiring entrepreneurs with mental health and addiction challenges. This year, we will focus on scaling the program across Ontario.

At Rise, our entrepreneurs face the same challenges that all entrepreneurs face – with the added complexity of managing their mental health or addiction challenge. Rise entrepreneurs are at the intersection of the following groups: people who currently have (or have had) mental health and/or addiction challenges; people who are unable to access mainstream financing from banks due to a lack of credit history or hiccups in their financial history; and people who are interested in self-employment. A significant number of this group are on government support, such as the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or Ontario Works (OW).

Rise believes that people facing challenges should be provided with the right tools and connections to networks to help them get ahead. We assist individuals living with mental illness or addictions who face many added barriers when seeking and maintaining employment. The Rotman School of Management and CAMH support the advisory functions of Rise program delivery, lending their respective expertise in business mentorship, consulting and mental health support and services to enterpreneurs.

As an organization, we strive to achieve a number of objectives. Rise stems from the fundamental truth that meaningful employment forms an essential part of a person’s well-being. We work to assist business growth and create sustainable businesses, reduce reliance on government assistance, create jobs and rebuild credit history. Rise is committed to helping reduce stigma at the personal, family and community levels through education and outreach. We foster social inclusion by connecting entrepreneurs with mental health and addiction issues with business professionals and the larger community.

Yesterday, the CAMH Social Entrepreneurism in Mental Health Equity (SEMH) awards ceremony was held at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. Developed by Dr. Sean Kidd and Dr. Kwame McKenzie, SEMH aims to highlight innovative and sustainable social enterprises. This year, Good Foot Delivery, Clean Works and Rise Asset Development were recognized among an impressive group of social enterprises that foster mental health equity and social inclusion. The audience - composed of health specialists, business professionals and government stakeholders - left the session with reinforced confidence in the ability of business principles to enable change in mental health equity.

Through highlighting and celebrating the successes of our entrepreneurs, Rise hopes to add dimensions to the ‘single story’ of people with mental health and addiction challenges.

This blog was originally posted on