b4stage4: How CMHA BC achieved a big victory using targeted engagement
Four years ago, mental health was mentioned less than 20 times (and addictions only 3 times) in provincial party platforms in British Columbia. Meanwhile, 77% of British Columbians felt that the prevention and early identification of mental illness was one of the top ten most important issues facing BC. With a provincial election approaching, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA BC) needed a guarantee that, this time, mental health was at the top of the agenda.
The national conversation about mental illness is growing. But to take the next step, and see substantive change in BC communities, a commitment is needed from the provincial government to tackle mental health and addictions like any other public health crisis – with policies and funding. The b4stage4 campaign was launched by CMHA BC with a clear message for all provincial candidates: “We would never knowingly wait until Stage 4 to intervene for cancer; we educate, screen and take action in the early stages. We need to do the same for mental illness.”
CMHA BC embraced a bold full-spectrum engagement strategy to match their big goals. Working with New/Mode partner, Vancity Studios, CMHA BC developed a series of asks and actions over an 18-month timeline leading up to the election.
The b4stage4 Action Hub (powered by NationBuilder) launched in the fall of 2016 and started as a simple, low-barrier “sign up” form to grow CMHA BC’s list of supporters. Over the next three months, supporters were invited to use New/Mode’s Engagement Tools to email, call and tweet the candidates in their riding. In March 2017, action-takers were asked to take the next step and write a letter to local editors, ensuring mental health stayed at the forefront in the last 60 days of the election. This series of actions, and growing public interest, firmly challenged candidates to commit to the five pillars of CMHA BC’s declaration on mental health. The strength of the campaign became evident during a Candidates Forum in April 2017, when many candidates affirmed their commitment to the declaration – and to better mental health.
In 2017, “mental health” appeared 84 times and “addiction” appeared 39 times across the three major party platforms – a 10 x increase from the previous four years.
Since the election, we have witnessed landmark commitments that align with the five pillars of the b4stage4 declaration. As a first step, the government appointed Judy Darcy as the new Minister of Mental Health and Addictions with the mandate to establish a dedicated Ministry to improve access to services for people with mental health and addiction issues.
This victory was celebrated by the large community of supporters, who were then ready and willing to take part in post-election advocacy and engagement – thanking the newly elected government for their support and, most importantly, keeping up the pressure to deliver on their promises.
b4stage4 is a great example of campaigners can build community power over time and leverage that powerful during an election to either get out the vote or in this case get tangible commitments about mental health and addictions.
Read more about b4stage4 in CHMA BC's campaign Impact Report.
The Campaign Results
- 2,858 signed to support the declaration
- 2,033 contacted their provincial candidates
- 382 volunteers signed-up
- 44 Candidates committed
- A new Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions