An anonymous donor has made a staggering $100-million gift to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
The donation was given to support research into mental illnesses, which affect some 6.7 million Canadians and are the leading cause of disability on earth.
“I believe CAMH is well-positioned to make a transformational impact in the field of mental health research,” the donor, who insisted on anonymity, said in a media release.
“I have seen the devastating impact of mental illness on individuals and their families; I want to provide support to the next generation of researchers and scientists to pursue the research that will directly transform care,”
The donation, which was announced at 11 a.m. Thursday, will support the recruitment and retention of top scientists and encourage them to take chances with their research.
“In order to enable quantum leaps forward, this gift will also support high-risk, high-reward research,” the donor said.
The donation is by far the largest ever given to a mental health centre in Canada and one of only a handful of that magnitude bestowed on any health organization in the country.
Last September, Toronto philanthropist Peter Munk donated $100 million to the heart centre that bears his name at the Toronto General Hospital.
In 2014, businessman Geoffrey Cumming donated $100 million to the University of Calgary’s school of medicine.
Dr. Catherine Zahn, CAMH president and CEO, said the donation and the Discovery Fund it will anchor will help scientists improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses.
“In broad strokes what we will be using the gift for is to recruit and retain excellent scientists (and) to create a fund that helps our own young scientists to grow and evolve,” she said.
“We will be looking for ways to provide funding for really, really leading-edge ideas that are going to be focused on understanding disease mechanisms, effective diagnosis and treatment.”
Zahn said she does not know for sure why the donor chose to remain anonymous.
“There are people who entrust organizations simply in the spirit of public service,” Zahn said. “I don’t have any other explanation. Some people understand that perhaps an anonymous gift may be the most sacred way of giving.”
Zahn says the money will likely be divvied up into an endowment and direct spending streams.
Dr. Trevor Young, dean of medicine at the University of Toronto, with which CAMH is affiliated, said the gift would help researchers discover the genetic underpinnings of many brain ailments.
“We’re in a very important time for medical research right now. Our explorations into the human genome are raising many fundamental questions about why people get sick, and these questions will lead to new treatments and cures,” Young said in an email interview.
“But it’s not just physical diseases like cancer that stand to benefit. Understanding the biological roots of depression, schizophrenia and other mental health diseases absolutely will lead to better treatments and ideally prevention.”
Young also said the gift would have a significant impact on many people across the city and province.
“There’s no question a gift of this enormity will open up many new and exciting studies that our residents will be eligible to join,” he said. “CAMH will be able to offer more cutting-edge treatments to people suffering from serious psychiatric disease.”
Darrell Louise Gregersen, president and CEO of the CAMH Foundation, expressed profound thanks for the donation.
“We are eternally grateful to this donor, for investing $100 million in our capacity to generate world-leading clinical discovery, and to invest in some of the high-risk, high-reward research that usually doesn’t get top funding priority,” Gregersen said in a release. “Philanthropy at CAMH is truly changing the future of mental illness, and creating hope for all Canadians.”