Friends for Mental Health, Interactive presentation

In September 2019, I gave an interactive presentation hosted by Friends for Mental Health (FFMH), a West Island (Montreal) organization that supports the family caregivers of people with mental health issues. The title of my workshop was: “Mad Like Me: Bipolar Disorder from a Patient’s Perspective”. My goal was to help caregivers consider bipolar disorder from the patient’s perspective so that they could treat us with greater empathy when our disorder causes us to act irrationally, inconsiderately, or even dangerously. I said that it’s not the patient who’s acting this way, it’s the disorder. And we need our caregiver’s help, understanding, and patience to tame the bipolar beast.

At the same time, I acknowledged the vital fact that caregivers need to take good care of their own mental health and wellbeing, especially when the patient is in crisis. That’s usually when caregivers drop everything and devote all their energy to getting their loved one back on track. But if caregivers burn out from putting the needs of the patient ahead of their own – or worse, become mentally unstable themselves – they won’t help anyone: not themselves, and certainly not the patient in crisis. Caregivers need to put their own oxygen masks on first before assisting others! 

You can watch the 43-minute workshop here:

Two of my own family caregivers, my husband, Rob Collins, and one of our children, Tami Hammond-Collins, attended to share their recollections of one particular incident from when I was manic. We then reflected on how we all might have handled that incident better. I then divided the audience of 35 people into small groups to consult about how they would handle hypothetical scenarios involving either (hypo)mania or depression in a loved one or client. The challenge for family caregivers is to show respect and treat bipolar patients with dignity while keeping them safe, and at the same time to preserve their own well-being and sanity. The groups then gave feedback in plenary, followed by a Q&A/comments session. Thanks to all who participated so actively, and to FFMH for the opportunity to spread my anti-stigma and “protect your own mental health” message.

Some members of the audience (mainly family caregivers, but some health professionals, too) who participated in my interactive workshop on 9 May 2019.

Nursing students at John Abbott College

On 25 March 2019, I facilitated a session for about 35 senior nursing students at John Abbott College in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue. Some of them had already completed their psychiatric rotations, and others were soon to do so. My goal was to stimulate them to think critically and creatively about their role as nurses working within the constraints of the psychiatric bureaucracy. Specifically: how can you treat your clients with greater respect and dignity, while still maintaining your relationships with nursing colleagues – many of whom may be burnt out? I divided the group into small groups to discuss various practical scenarios that I had personally faced during my own psychiatric hospitalizations. They then shared their ideas in plenary, and I concluded by urging each of them to protect their own mental health: “go to the ‘mental health gym’ every day!”

Here’s a sample of student comments posted on the College’s messaging system after the presentation.

“Thank you so much for taking the time to so bravely come and tell us your story. Advocating for yourself and for others can be so difficult, especially with the persistent stigma around mental illness. You do so beautifully and with ease, and are a true inspiration to everyone, particularly to us as aspiring nurses. Your story will stick with us in our practice and in our lives! Thank you so much again.”
“Dr. Hammond, I found your presentation to be very helpful. I think it’s invaluable for us as nursing students to get the perspective of someone who is living with a mental illness and has experienced accessing health care through the system in Quebec. I was very touched by what you shared about your experience in the Douglas Hospital. I want to thank you for opening up to us and helping us to understand the importance of taking time for each patient and using a person-first perspective.”
“I would like to tell Dr. Hammond that her presentation was inspiring. It is nice to meet someone who has a mental disorder. Hearing about the obstacles she faced and the quality of treatment she received made me realize how much those with mental illness are aware of what is going on around them. Thank you Dr. Hammond for sharing your experience with us.”


International Women’s Day, 2019

March 2019: About 35 women gathered to celebrate International Women’s Day in my hometown, Baie-D’Urfé, Quebec. The theme was “Living in Balance, A Fine Line.” In Mad Like Me I share detailed tips and strategies about how I try to live a balanced life to stay stable since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Because of this lived experience, I was invited to MC this event. Following an ice-breaker, small group and plenary discussions, we ended with a toast. May we all strive to live a balanced life!



** New offer: Virtual Book Club Visits **

I offer free “virtual book club visits” via Skype! If you have a book club that you would like me to “visit”, please email me and I will happily Skype with you during your book club meeting to do a short reading, discuss any aspect of the book, answer questions, and encourage story-sharing about mental illness.


1.  What can I offer as a speaker?

I love public speaking, I have a proven track record with a wide variety of target groups, and I’m confident that I can assure your audience a powerful and memorable learning experience. Let’s talk!

I can offer any or a combination of:

  • keynote speeches
  • interactive sessions
  • full-day or longer workshops
  • participatory events
  • webinars
  • story sharing sessions
  • any other suggestion you may have after reading the section about my background as a speaker below!

2.  My background as a speaker

I have always enjoyed public speaking and debating, and in fact was able to pay my way through university with a grant I won in a national speaking contest in high school.

For my entire career, I’ve been a public speaker/teacher of one kind or another. I have:

  • lectured groups of over two hundred fourth-year medical students and at age 24 was voted “best teacher” by the students (while there, I implemented a novel, interactive method of “modular teaching,” and edited 3 textbooks using this approach, published by Oxford University Press);
  • taught post-graduate doctors doing the Diploma in Public Health, and served on the Curriculum Reform Committee of the Medical School, pushing to change the curriculum to better meet the needs of South Africa’s black communities;
  • qualified in Nursing Education;
  • designed, implemented and evaluated a unique new 2-year university course for nurses and doctors working in rural areas of South Africa, the Diploma in Primary Health Care Education;
  • got a PhD in adult education, learning more about how to make learning and teaching situations as participatory and empowering as possible (my doctoral thesis was later adapted and published by Kogan Page in London, UK, under the title “Self-Directed Learning: Critical Practice”);
  • taught young children and their families about social justice and environmental issues and published a book (“One World, One Earth: Educating Children for Social Responsibility”);
  • led a national campaign to end the cosmetic use of pesticides, during which I addressed numerous meetings, protests, and government leaders including the federal Minister of Health, and published a book, “Pesticide Bylaws: Why we need them; how to get them”;
  • taught groups of Indigenous lay health workers in both face-to-face workshops and by distance education;
  • taught youth to become co-researchers on federally-funded health projects of vital importance to their communities;
  • designed a curriculum and learning materials about participatory research for international doctors;
  • addressed government agents, academics and policy makers about the need to consider the realities of Indigenous communities in their project planning and funding decisions.

Please see my CV and my list of publications for more details.

My Toastmasters Awards

More recently, from 2014 until 2017 I was a member of Toastmasters, an international organization that promotes excellence in public speaking, and whose mission is to “empower individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders.” I received a “Competent Communicator” award in 2015, “Advanced Communicator Bronze” award in 2016, and “Competent Leader” award in 2017. I won the “Best Speaker Award” at numerous club meetings and represented my club at many local, area and division-level speech contests, placing first in several of them. In late 2017 I retired from Toastmasters to start doing improv. I’ve found the spontaneity and ability to think on your feet that improv demands to be an excellent discipline to keep me on my toes as a public speaker.

3.  How to introduce me to your audience

Depending on the topic of your event, who your target audience is, where I would be placed in the program, and how much time you’d like to give to each speaker’s introduction, I will draft a suggested introduction about myself that you could simply edit and use on the day.

No hassles; no extra tasks for you to be concerned about. I’m here to help you create the best possible event!

Reach out!

To contact me for an interview or speaking gig, please send me an email.