Microfinance Loans for People With Mental Health Diagnoses


The Toronto Globe & Mail reports on a project to provide “microfinance” loans of $3,000 up to $25,000 to people diagnosed with mental illness who are trying to start businesses. So far the Toronto project has financed 17 clients with a 100% payback rate, and is now being expanded across the Ontario province to fund a target of small-business loans next year. The project is run out of the school of management at the University of Toronto (in partnership with Canada’s Center for Addiction and Mental Health). “There’s a dignity when they walk through these doors – they’re coming to a business school, not a hospital. And they’re treated as entrepreneurs,” says  the program’s executive director.

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. The key clues here are found in paragraph 2 of this article. The person is now “steady, thanks to a better mix of meds,” The Canadian Centre for Mental health and Addiction is behind this program. What do you want to bet that a requirement for obtaining a loan is that the person is “med compliant?”

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  2. What about this part? “It’s a far cry from the 1950s and 1960s, when people with mental illnesses were often locked up in asylums, isolated from society. In more recent years, “the emphasis is on recovery – living effectively with an illness,” says John Trainor, who directs CAMH’s community support and research unit.” That’s not the story that Whitaker tells in Anatomy of an Epidemic, about the 50s and 60s — doesn’t he talk about deinstitutionalization? — but his book was about the US. I wonder if anyone has done research to say what was actually happening in Canada at that time.

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    • Present day Canada is a psychiatric nightmare where there are record numbers people forcibly drugged in their own home with community commitment.

      As for the charity program, good for them.

      One of the comments on the news story by a reader there says:

      Patricia F

      9:11 AM on June 2, 2012

      Without getting into whether microloans are a good or bad thing…..

      Why is it that there is a slur put onto walking into hospital ? There should be absolutely no bad conotaton(sic) put onto walking into a hospital ! ”

      Oh but Patricia! We are not talking about ‘walking into a hospital’, so much as are talking about being walked in handcuffs into a hospital. So that’s where we get the ‘bad connotation’.

      When will they learn?

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