CAMH Foundation’s 2007 Recipients of the 15th Annual Courage to Come Back Awards

Recognizing that living with mental illness & addiction takes courage, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation is once again, proud to announce this year’s recipients of the 15th Annual Courage to Come Back Awards presented by RBC Capital Markets.

These six extraordinary people who have overcome mental illness and/or addiction and now use their experience to help others were recently honoured for their courage at The Courage to Come Back Awards Dinner and gala hosted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Foundation at the Westin Harbour Castle Conference Centre.Here are the 2007 Courage to Come Back Award recipients:

Marie Asuncion of Scarborough – Just before her sixteenth birthday, Marie Asuncion was experiencing paranoia, feeling anxious and hearing voices. Several weeks later she had her first episode of psychosis. With help from CAMH, Marie learned to understand and successfully manage her illness. Today, she participates in numerous extracurricular and leadership activities and actively encourages youth who may be at risk of psychosis to seek preventative treatment.

Rita Buffalo of Thunder Bay – From early in her childhood, Rita Buffalo experienced unspeakable physical, emotional and sexual abuse. After spending her adolescence in a series of foster homes and mental health facilities, Rita ended up on the streets and for 20 years made a living by selling her body to support her cocaine addiction. Today, Rita is a powerful advocate of Aboriginal literacy and lends her support and direction to people in the very programs that helped her turn her life around.

Dr. Michael Kaufmann of Warkworth – Seeking help, accepting diagnosis, and overcoming addiction is difficult for anyone, especially a physician. Dr. Michael Kaufmann never thought that he would be the one asking for help, but shortly after opening his own medical practice, Michael’s casual use of prescription drugs turned into a severe addiction. An intervention from caring colleagues started Michael on the road to recovery. As the founding director of the Physician Health Program for the Ontario Medical Association in Toronto, Michael now helps thousands of other health professionals in similar circumstances.

Tom Regehr of Georgetown – Tom turned to alcohol at the age of 15 after a series of losses during his childhood. He avoided his emotional pain while living on the streets for nearly a decade. At the age of 37, Tom reached a turning point and his life finally came into focus. Taking his recovery into his own hands, he started a support group and today he continues to change the lives of those struggling with addiction by providing positive and hopeful support.

Alyse Schacter of Ottawa – Alyse was only 12 years old when she was diagnosed with severe, treatment-resistant Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Tourette’s Syndrome. Despite the fact that no treatment has worked for her, Alyse is a Grade 11 honours student, a budding philanthropist and an active volunteer. Alyse refuses to let her illness define her life. She is continually educating her peers and helping to break down the stigma associated with mental illness.

Jeff Wilbee of Kitchener – From alcohol abuse and psychiatric hospitalizations, to a life he never dreamed possible following his recovery, Jeff Wilbee became a passionate advocate and was named executive director of Addictions Ontario. He now enjoys life with his cherished wife, children and grandchildren, and has helped hundreds of people gain control of their addictions and improve their lives and relationships. The Courage to Come Back Awards is an annual public awareness and fundraising campaign first launched in 1993. The awards recognize the achievements of people across Ontario who have shown courage and determination in the face of mental illness and addiction. The recipients have achieved personal victories, and now serve as models of hope and inspiration for others facing similar circumstances.

CAMH is a specialized teaching hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, and is the largest mental health and addiction facility in Canada. CAMH is also a Pan American Health Organization and a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre.