February 22 , 2010


Carnival atmosphere to draw mental illness into the spotlight


Hamilton, Ont. February 22, 2010Mental illness poses the single largest threat to student well-being on university campuses today, and yet it still carries the mark of disgrace. In an attempt to erase the stigma and educate students about mental illness, a team of McMaster students and a counselor will hold a three-day Mental Health & Wellness Fair.

Set up as an informal, colourful market/fair, the Be Aware Fair—to be held from Feb. 23 to 25—is aimed at students, faculty and staff. From fitness and art classes to lectures on the stigma of mental health and current research into the disease the focus will be on dispelling many myths and offering strategies for those who battle mental illness.

“In the few years that we have actively been focusing on mental health issues on campus we have noticed that awareness has increased, and the stigma is lessening considerably,” says Phil Wood, associate vice-president, Student Affairs, who adds that the University is seeing a spectrum of mental disorders, from anxiety to schizophrenia to bipolar disorder. “We’ve gone from helping a handful of students to helping several hundred. Instead of suffering silently, more are coming forward and self-identifying, and we’re able to direct them to appropriate care.”

Dr. James Bourgeois, professor in McMaster’s Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural
Neurosciences, says psychiatric illnesses, such as mood and anxiety disorders, are common throughout the lifespan.

“Advances in treatment, both psychopharmacological and psychotherapeutic, have significantly improved clinical outcomes in recent years,” says Bourgeois. “Events such as this one are important to communicate the importance of understanding, recognizing, and facilitating the management of psychiatric illness in the university community and in the larger society.”

The Be Aware Fair won’t be without light-hearted events such as Shave the Shrink: Dr. Nathan Cooper, a clinical psychologist in McMaster’s Centre for Student Development, has agreed to shave his long hair and beard on the condition that more than $1,000 is raised. The money raised will be donated to Homestead Christian Care. There will also be raffles and free stress kits.

“Over the last few years, McMaster’s Mental Health and Wellness Team has run a weekly
peer-support group,” says Dorina Simeonov, one of the student organizers of the event. “Almost all of us have a personal acquaintance with mental illness, and so it is increasingly important that people are educated around ways of taking care of their own mental health, as well as learning ways they can help a loved one who is suffering.”


For more information, please contact the event organizers:


Dorina Simeonov

McMaster Mental Health & Wellness Team





Maria Deanna Ierullo


McMaster Mental Health & Wellness Team





James A. Bourgeois, M.D.

Department of Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences

McMaster University

905-522-1155 x 36659



Jane Christmas

Manager, Public & Media Relations

McMaster University

905-525-9140 ext. 27988




Michelle Donovan

Public Relations Manager: Broadcast Media

McMaster University

905-525-9140 ext. 22869