Mental illness, it's no joke

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By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - Laughing in the face of adversity really paid off for a group of college students looking to draw awareness to mental illness.

A crowd of 225 people packed City Limits Bar & Grill – Spotlight Lounge for the 'Spotlight on Mental Health' - comedy show on March 29 with Canadian comedian Mike MacDonald as headliner.

All jokes aside, some serious cash was raised for the Cornwall office of the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Seven St. Lawrence College (SLC) second-year social service worker students reserved a spot at the head of their class for organizing the event, which racked up over $4,000 for the CMHA.

"It feels amazing to get all this support," said Amy Crowe, co-organizer of the fundraiser. "Since we're almost graduating it's also a great way to create some connections for work experience for afterwards."

Her fellow classmates Krissie Simons, Callie McLeod, Jessica Seguin, Jessica McPhee-Massia, Ryan McLuckie, and Angie Rozon were all floored by the unexpected turnout.

MacDonald, Cornwall's own Mark Vincent, and Ottawa stand-up comics Josh Williams and Mike Beatty provided the entertainment. But for one humorist in particular the message of the event was all too familiar. MacDonald, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, comes across as all funny bone during his interview with Seaway News.

Listening to his act, which has been seen on Late Show With David Letterman and Just for Laughs, only solidifies it. Meanwhile, on stage he discusses how having a sense of humour isn't always an easy task for him.

MacDonald's struggles with mental illness, a previous drug addiction, and ongoing health issues, which have lessened since undergoing a liver transplant last year, usually find their way into his act. It's a big reason why he was glad to perform at a show focused on mental health awareness.

"It's always a good initiative to try to lessen the stigma about mental illness," said MacDonald.

The popular comedian stressed that, minus any special treatment, mental illness should be regarded as any other ailment, especially in the workplace; eluding to the debilitating nature of mental health issues.

"People should be able to phone in and say 'I can't come in to work today, I'm having a bad day.' And the employer should understand, under the proper circumstances of course," he said.

MacDonald joked that the notion of a depressed comic isn't that far from the truth.

"I've always said that there are only two kinds of comics: diagnosed and undiagnosed. And after a while it's easy to tell which is which."

For more information about the CMHA, visit www.cmha.ca.

Organizations: Lawrence College, SLC

Geographic location: Ottawa

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