Faculty of Medicine

Miner’s Lamp Award Dinner Shines a Spotlight on Mental Health

Mar 22, 2019
Ben Gane

Photo of 2019 Miner’s Lamp Award recipient Margaret TrudeauMargaret Trudeau speaks at the 2019 Miner’s Lamp Award dinner. Photo by Ashlea Wessel

This year’s event brings the total raised for research into the prevention and early detection of youth mental illness to $2.7 million over four years.

“Today there is such hope… we reach out and we get help in Canada. We are focusing on mental health,” said 2019 Miner’s Lamp Award recipient Margaret Trudeau. When she decided to share her own struggle with bipolar disorder in 2006, Canadians were only just beginning to talk openly about mental health. Her leadership helped transform the conversation about mental illness in Canada and paved the way for others to share their own stories.

Speaking to over 400 business and cultural leaders, researchers and philanthropists from across Toronto at the Miner’s Lamp Award Dinner, Trudeau at once celebrated our progress and acknowledged there is still much work to do. “We can all suffer from mental illness, and the collateral damage can be huge. We must take the brave step and say, ‘I need help.’ We must accept that we all need support and compassion.”

The dinner is a partnership between Toronto-based gold mining company IAMGOLD Corporation and the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry. All funds raised support research at U of T and affiliated hospitals. The event is also a lightning rod for conversation, providing a venue for leaders and advocates to share their experiences with mental illness. Funds raised in previous years are helping uncover new ways to detect and prevent severe mental illness early.  

“It’s a very exciting time in science, with new developments expanding the realm of what we thought possible,” said Faculty of Medicine Dean Trevor Young, who recognized IAMGOLD Corporation’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Carol Banducci and Dr. Benoit Mulsant, Professor and Labatt Family Chair of U of T’s Department of Psychiatry, for their passion and hard work. “Through this tremendous partnership with IAMGOLD, we are developing a much better understanding of the biological mechanisms involved in mental illness.”

As Dean Young introduced special guest speaker Tera Armel, he took a moment to show off his stylish “Step Above Stigma” socks. Tera is a volunteer leader with Step Above Stigma, a non-profit organization focused on improving access to mental health care. She spoke about her experience of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her final year of high school.

Having lived with obsessive-compulsive disorder from early childhood, Tera knew she could thrive with it. But bipolar disorder was different. It seemed unpredictable, shattering her self-confidence and her certainty. In order to regain her self-assurance, she needed help.

“I learned it’s okay to lean on others when you can’t see a future beyond your current state of mind,” she said. With the support of her family and health care providers, she was able to continue her academic pursuits and discover new support networks, finding new ways to advocate for mental health and encourage open conversations. “Fighting stigma and having conversations with like-minded people has helped give meaning to my diagnosis.”

The evening was moderated by sports announcer Rod Black and included a performance from Juno Award-winning singer-songwriter Chantal Kreviazuk. Kreviazuk spoke movingly about growing up with mental illness in her family, sharing how her experiences have inspired her music.

At a time when mental illness is discussed more openly than ever before in Canada, the Miner’s Lamp Award Dinner is a reminder that it took many courageous voices to bring us this far — and that we still have much work left to do.

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