FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Bernardi Bursary Helps Those Who Have Experienced Systemic Barriers Have Opportunities To Become The Mental Health Leaders Of Tomorrow
Launched with a $25,000 donation from Bernardi Human Resource Law to support diversity in senior leadership in mental health and addictions
Brampton, ON: August 17, 2021 – In 2021, in honour of the 25th anniversary of Bernardi Human Resource Law, Lauren Bernardi, Founder of Bernardi Human Resource Law and Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin (CMHA) Board Member, presented a cheque for $25,000 to CMHA Peel Dufferin. The generous donation was used to create the Bernardi Bursary to help increase the diversity in senior leadership in mental health and addictions. The bursary provides the opportunity for CMHA staff to develop into senior leadership roles with the ultimate goal of having mental health leadership representative of those being served.
“Bernardi Human Resource Law LLP created the Bernardi Bursary to help individuals from marginalized communities advance their education to obtain leadership roles within CMHA. In addition to helping individuals advance their careers, this enables CMHA to further develop a leadership team with diverse perspectives and experiences. We are thrilled to play a small part in assisting tomorrow’s leaders in workplace mental health,” said Lauren Bernardi, Lawyer & Human Resource Advisor.
The first recipient of the Bernardi Bursary is Shakirat Simms, Registered Nurse, CMHA Peel Dufferin.
Nursing was Shakirat’s second career. Decades ago, her dad was ill with cancer. But now he has been in remission for 20 years. However, Shakirat will never forget the care he received. It affected his outcome and inspired her to do the same for others.
When Shakirat was doing her nursing degree she felt she was not given the same opportunities for clinical placements as some of her classmates. This didn’t allow her to round out her resume as much as she had hoped. So, she took action to make that happen.
After graduation, she went to northern Manitoba to work in the Emergency Department in Thompson. This is where she became interested in mental health and addictions. She had the opportunity to work with many indigenous and marginalized people, and she saw lots of mental health issues that needed support.
Once home, she was able to find work in a local Emergency Department and Endoscopy Clinic. From there she took a position at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). She worked in withdrawal management, inpatient, and as a float nurse. She moved from acute care, to psychiatry, to emergency, to inpatient. She followed the trajectories of acute cases, seeing the stabilization of a patient and then watching the transition back to community supports.
From CAMH she moved to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Peel Dufferin and joined the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic team.
When it came to pursuing more education, it was seeing what is possible that got her thinking. When she interviewed with CMHA and her manager was a Black woman just like her, she paused as she had not had that experience yet in her journey. In speaking with her new manager and discussing possibilities for growth, her eyes were opened to what her future might hold.
The graduate program she chose ended up finding her. It was Ryerson’s Master of Health Administration with a focus on Community Care. The only one of its kind in Canada. And it’s meant for those who are continuing to work, with onsite and virtual courses happening on Thursday nights, Fridays, and Saturdays.
“The Bernardi Bursary is helping tremendously with the financial aspects. Education is out of reach for many people and it’s programs like this one that make all the difference. Even just being given the opportunity to apply for the bursary was beyond my dreams. As a Black person, for so long it was ingrained that this kind of thing was not possible. We may not even know the barriers because we didn’t dream of what was on the other side of them,” said Shakirat Simms.
She is so excited to have this opportunity to grow into a position where she can help make broad change in the mental health and addictions system.
“I’m a lifelong learner and I’m always taking courses. I like to stay in the know and be on the pulse. And this new journey will help me on my quest to find an actionable way to affect healthcare through policy development and system-wide concepts. I’ll be with physicians and nurses and professionals and folks from different sectors. And just chatting with them all in our meet and greet, I could see the hunger and passion in every one of them to make change. I am so excited to be part of it. To get the chance to pull best practices and pain points from different areas and put those puzzle pieces together to find solutions. We need to continue to work to find ways to make mental health and addictions a normal part of being human. Remove the stigma,” said Shakirat.
Shakirat’s favourite quote is by Maya Angelou, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
She believes this quote has been brought to life for her as an employee of CMHA Peel Dufferin.
“This organization offers the best work life balance I have seen on my journey. Good vacation and benefits and manageable shifts. They truly do want staff to have well-being. That is invaluable. They also include employees from all levels in working groups to gather perceptions and experiences. Especially in recent months when we all came together to acknowledge that racism is a thing that many experience and must be addressed for our staff and our clients. I feel seen and heard and I’m very thankful for this wonderful opportunity to pursue my next level of education with the support of my employer and the Bernardi Bursary,” said Shakirat.
“We are honoured to work with Bernardi Human Resource Law to launch the Bernardi Bursary for staff from our organization. The Bernardi Bursary will support staff from marginalized communities to gain education and become the mental health system leaders of tomorrow. This wouldn’t be possible without the generous donation from Lauren Bernardi and Bernardi Human Resource Law, and we are very thankful for their support. We are delighted for this year’s recipient, Shakirat Simms, who exemplifies the qualities of leadership and devotion to mental health that the Bernardi Bursary was meant to advance,” said David Smith, CEO, CMHA Peel Dufferin.
About CMHA Peel Dufferin
Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin Branch offers services to youth and adults experiencing an addictions or mental health crisis, seniors with dementia, those navigating the court systems, people who are homeless or facing imminent homelessness and family and caregivers. www.cmhapeeldufferin.ca
CMHA Peel Dufferin champions good mental health for everyone and supports the full participation of those with mental illness and addictions in the life of the community.
For more information or to reach a spokesperson, please contact:Siobhan Kukolic Communications Officer (416) 521-5387