Nancy O’Dea is the Founding Chair of the Women for Mental Health at The Royal initiative  -WMH is  a group of philanthropic women who understand the need for open conversation about our community’s mental health – conversations to drive change and inspire new attitudes. Nancy believes in giving back to the community that has been so supportive to her in her successful real estate career. She contributes a portion of every transaction to the Royal Ottawa’s Women for Mental Health


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Helping Hand

Nancy O’Dea launches ambitious Women for Mental Health
By Travis Persaud

The high-profile suicide of an Ottawa teenager, Daron Richardson, in November 2010 jump-started Nancy O’Dea into action. “My two daughters were around the same age as [her],” O’Dea says, adding that Richardsons death made her realize that such a tragedy could happen in any family and compelled her to act.

Photo by: Justin Van Leeuwen

Women for Mental Health – a philanthropic program at The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health – launched in March 2011 with Nancy O’Dea as chair. The goal? To drive change by championing conversations about mental health, as well as funding research and clinical – care programs. “Women are twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues, and they’re more likely to be open and have conversations,” explains O’Dea.  “Therefore they have a great capacity to carry forward a positive message. Thats why we thought it was time to raise awareness through women.”

She believes that everyone needs to work together to erase the stigma of mental health issues, because that stigma is often what keeps individuals from getting help. “If you have chest pain, you wouldn’t think twice about going to the doctors,” she says.  “But if you start to feel unusual either emotionally or mentally, then there’s this message out there that somethings wrong and you should suck it up.” That keeps the issue in the dark, she says, and doesn’t lead to any positive solutions.

Women for Mental Health aims to raise $5 to $10 million over five years as part of The Royal’s overall $25-million fundraising campaign that funds their four pillars: education, research, community support, and treatment.  Each of the founding members pledged to give $5,000 over five years or more, as well as to find five more women to do the same. So far they’ve raised over $1 million.

It sounds like an incredibly daunting task, but O’Dea – a busy real estate professional, mother, and wife – says its what the community needs. “So many people are suffering alone and in the shadows when its absolutely not necessary,” she says.”We want mental health out of the shadows, the shame eliminated.”

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