A Message from the Chair & CEO

2019 was a milestone year for SSO as we celebrated our 40th anniversary and a pivotal time for our organization as we explore what our next 40 years will look like. Since our humble beginnings as a support group in a church basement in 1979, we have grown into the largest provincial charity making a positive difference in the lives of people impacted by schizophrenia and psychotic illness.

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We serve close to 10,000 Ontarians every year through counselling, family support groups, educational workshops for individuals, caregivers, and professionals and community events. We are strong advocates for mental health in Ontario, working hard to create an agile, responsive mental health system and raise awareness of key issues people face. Mental health and mental illnesses are receiving more attention these days across the globe, and we have all come to understand their impact on all of our lives.

This past fall, supported by IPSOS, we conducted a stakeholder survey to better inform planning for our programs, services and communications. What we heard was that we needed to look beyond just supporting a “diagnosis”: people need holistic support geared to better assist families and caregivers, help with housing and employment, and ongoing advocacy to help access much needed services or treatments.

In response, our Board of Directors looked at the path forward. We concluded that to better help people in our communities living with mental illness today, yet remain sustainable in a changing world, we need to embrace new technologies and innovation. This is why this past year, we launched IAM (Institute for Advancements in Mental Health) with a bold vision to redesign society for better mental health. The institute includes a unique mental health innovation platform aiming to directly improve the lives of people.

40 years ago, we were bold enough to start a support group for an illness no one wanted to talk about openly; an illness where those impacted were often hidden away, out of sight, by members of their own family.
40 years ago, we were boldly bringing families together to support their loved ones with schizophrenia.

Today, we are even bolder. Schizophrenia as an illness has changed – many advancements in treatment have allowed people to live a very different life than they could have 40 years ago, yet opportunities for those with serious mental illness and day to day life, can still be found lacking. We want to be part of closing that gap.

Today, with the building out of IAM, our vision is to bring together the mental health sector and innovators, researchers, entrepreneurs, corporate partners and of course, families, caregivers and people living with mental illness, to make a difference and create a system that better responds to their needs.

With advancements in treatment and technologies, tighter purse strings on public funding and a new generation growing up who is used to speaking more openly and inclusively about mental health in our schools, workplaces and beyond, it’s inspiring to imagine the future of mental health. Beginning with today, we’re so excited to see what our next 40 years will bring, and we are so excited to be part of the journey.

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Mission, Vision & Mandate


SSO by the Numbers

Supporting families in communities across the province for 40 years, we have grown into a leading charity with four regional offices, nearly 20 staff and a network of more than 60 volunteers.

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Our Stories

Advocacy Lawyer’s Advice to Caregivers

Celebrating 40 Years

SSO: Advocacy & Education – A Short History

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40 Years

Reflecting on a Family’s Legacy

At family gatherings, Jim was always very quiet and only spoke a few words after being asked basic questions. He was a big fan of everyone’s cooking, and always politely asked for seconds (sometimes thirds). Jim had schizophrenia, and though he was physically present when we got together, growing up I always wondered about his brain chemistry and how his illness affected my grandparents, dad, and uncle.


As the youngest in our immediate family, I didn’t understand or appreciate what my grandparents had built until I was fourteen. They created the SSO community in a time and place when schizophrenia was becoming more common within southern Ontario families, but no support was available. The SSO provided comfort and answers when there was much concern and so many questions.

It is truly inspiring to see how the organization has grown with a team of dedicated, educated employees and volunteers who are passionate about assisting their communities with this disease.

Knowing that the charity started out with just eighty attendees in a church basement, to now being the largest provincial health charity dedicated to helping people with schizophrenia, providing resources and events across our communities is amazing.

When it comes to carrying on my grandparents legacy, my family and I do so by being empathetic to those with mental health challenges. We speak openly about our own struggles in hopes that one day there is no stigma surrounding this mental illness.

My family and I are very proud of what Bill and Dorothy established four decades ago, and along with Jim, it has certainly brought our families closer together. We will continue to lend a hand and be a supportive voice for the SSO communities when needed.

Emily Jefferies, granddaughter of SSO Co-Founder Dorothy Jefferies

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An interview with SSO’s co-founder, Dorothy Jefferies

Started 40 years ago by Oakville residents Bill and Dorothy Jefferies, the (then) ‘Ontario Friends of Schizophrenics’ was launched in the basement of a church in Oakville. Co-founder Dorothy Jefferies shares her memories of that very first support group meeting and reflects back to all the milestones that she and her husband Bill had accomplished together, drawing on the support of their community.

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Our Path Forward

What would life be like if we reinforced mental health and wellness at work, school, home, transit, advertising and social media?

Mental health is a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. (Source: CMHA)

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Living a meaningful life with mental illness is now much more the goal – functional programs that help people cope better with the day to day and live a better, more meaningful life. In creating IAM, we noticed two major barriers to good mental health care today

The lack of progress in health system improvement for people and families facing mental health concerns, especially those living with serious mental illness

Building on this over the next three years, SSO will focus its new corporate strategy on the following:

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Institute for Advancements in Mental Health (IAM)

Created by SSO in 2017, IAM was inspired by and evolved out of four decades of serving people with the most chronic forms of mental illness, and building a specialized understanding of their needs to help the lead successful, meaningful lives.


Looking to the Future

From innovation around youth mental health to ways public space can influence wellness, IAM is working to change the way society looks at mental health.


Research and Innovation

As the main agent in Ontario for schizophrenia and psychotic illness, SSO continues to collaborate with and engage key partners on important developments in schizophrenia and schizophrenia research.


Our Priorities

Ask the Expert

Recovery in Action

Advancing CBT for Psychosis in Ontario

This Year's Highlights

March LCBO Campaign

Hole out for Hope

Peace of Minds Party & Scholarship Recipient Gala

Peace of Minds Yoga

Annual Peace of Minds Walk

Volunteer Week 2019

World Schizophrenia Day 2019

Policy and Advocacy

Our Financials

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A Big Thank You to Our Donors

$200,000 and Over

Marguerite Meader Estate Ministry of Health & Long-term Care Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network

$100,000 and Over

Federated Health Janssen Inc. Ontario Trillium Foundation

$50,000 and Over

Echo Foundation Halton Healthcare Services Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network

$25,000 - $49,999

Edmund Jardine Estate Halton Region Otsuka Lundbeck Mary-Lou Roder

$10,000 - $24,999

Estate of M. Irene Laird Pfizer Canada Inc. The Tom and Ruth Kritsch Family Foundation

$5,000 - $9,999

A.W.B. Charitable Foundation Estate of Dorothy Sullivan HLS Therapeutics Marja Ivarsson

$2,000 - $4,999

Bayer Canada City of Hamilton Brad Daniels Estate of Edna Umanciw Oksana Maksymiw The Betty and Joe Gray Family Foundation The Kit Skelly Foundation

$1,000 - $1,999

M. Allain ArcelorMittal Dofasco Inc. William Ardell Armitage (Ontario) Constuction Co. Limited Donald Banks Anthony Berger Lucienne Bunda Tom Cosentino Isabel Henniger David Howison John Kollar Evangeline Mangune David Montoya Jennifer Pause Don Rousell Marilyn Sarin Peter Singer Sirius XM Canada Inc. Rubin Sugar Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. Thomas, Large & Singer Inc. The Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company of Canada John Watson Xcel Source Corp