The Mental Heath Advocate

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Spotlight on Hidden Physicists

The Mental Heath Advocate

Austin Mardon, Technical Supervisor, John Dossetor Health Ethics Center, University of Alberta


Austin Mardon, Technical Supervisor, Adjunct Faculty Member, John Dossetor Health Ethics Center, University of Alberta, Canada, Sigma Pi Sigma South Dakota State University Chapter, Class of 1986

Photo courtesy of Austin Mardon.Becoming a scientist was a natural calling to me. Using my science background to face adversity—to rationalize the compulsive delusional thinking I developed when I fell sick to schizophrenia—was an unexpected development.

With my developed self-deprecating humor, I can now justify myself as a mad scientist.

Having a background in science helps me to understand the world with objectivity. I am always in awe of how the training I received surpassed mere information learning and set down the basis of my thought patterns.
I have been fond of problem solving since I was a child. I excelled in geophysics and astronomy classes at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Shortly after receiving my undergraduate degree in geography, I came across the opportunity to conduct field research work in Antarctica. Along with five other members of an expedition, I traveled 1,111 kilometers by snowmobile through the inner glaciers of this frozen continent and managed to recover over 700 meteorites. I, personally, found a carbon meteorite and a lunar one.

The trip was the most significant of my career. Unfortunately, it was also the hardest on my mental state and physical well-being, sparking the onset of my schizophrenia.

I could either indulge in my hallucinations or accept treatment and continue to stay aware of this world. At this crossroads, I chose sanity. Science had taught me that the world is beautiful and elegant. How could I discover its possibilities and find explanations if I could not distinguish reality from delusion? In comparison to the majority of people with schizophrenia, I could also turn to my schooling to understand the science behind my medications and their importance for recovery.

Outside of the calculations, graphs, and diagrams of my scientific career, I was able to break down my situation as a disabled person with a strong desire to learn and make the world a better place. Therefore I proceeded to pursue my master’s in geography and education and eventually a doctorate in geography. Nowadays I focus on writings, journal publications, and mental health advocacy. I am always looking for opportunities to educate the public about mental well-being with an assertive and rational tone.

Since I was awarded the Order of Canada and became a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, I have often been compared to the great mathematician John Nash, who became more widely known through the movie A Beautiful Mind. Our mad scientist mentality and struggle to balance logic and hyper-creativity continue to intrigue many.

This story was written with the assistance of Jessica Wong.

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