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My Story

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In the beginning...

I started life in South Africa, where I trained as a nurse and went on to do a variety of post-graduate studies including sociology, culminating in a PhD in adult education and community health.

In 1988, my husband Rob Collins and I moved from apartheid South Africa to Montreal, Canada.

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In between raising three biological children and helping to raise two step-children, I am a public health consultant, working with Rob in First Nations and Inuit communities in northern Canada. We have published widely in both South Africa and Canada about the work we do.

The five children

"Merryl Hammond bravely takes us into her life and shows us all how to turn a crisis into gratitude!"

– Michele Noble, LPC

Bipolar strikes

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My manic grin

I never gave my mental health a moment’s thought until 2008, when bipolar disorder suddenly struck at age 51. Almost overnight, I flipped from being a health professional and researcher to locked ward patient.

My manic grin


It all started with a crushing depression shortly after some extreme family-related stress.


Not long after, an inexplicable fizzy, spinning elation gripped me, and I was off and running. No, scratch that. I was flying high!

Luckily, I was able to get a rapid assessment, and within weeks a diagnosis of bipolar disorder was confirmed, and medications were prescribed.

I was appalled. Mentally ill? Me?! No way! Well… yes, way.

"Dr. Hammond bravely shares some of the darkest moments of her depression and takes us with her as she soars to a state of sublime and powerful excitement in mania."

– Dr. A-M. Ghadirian, Professor Emeritus, McGill University

My memoir: Mad Like Me

It was at the height of a manic episode that I decided to write a book about my journey through Bipolar Country.

I kept detailed notes of my experiences and insights throughout the madness, and it is these that I share with readers in the hopes that fellow travellers in Bipolar Country will feel better supported, and that carers, therapists and psychiatric professionals will get a clearer idea of what their clients are dealing with. I know that when I was working as a young nurse, it would have helped enormously if I had understood what my psychiatric patients were actually living through.


Post-its capturing my racing thoughts in mania


"A brilliant bipolar disorder patient chronicles her valuable experience
with candour, humour and remarkable clarity."

– Dr. A-M. Ghadirian, Professor Emeritus, McGill University

What’s next?


Now that Mad Like Me has been published (whew!), I have lots of ideas for follow-up, complementary projects to continue fighting the stigma against mental illness, including starting a blog, writing other types of books for children and youth, a screenplay, and maybe even a graphic novel adaptation. You can read more about this in Future Projects.

"Merryl Hammond is a strong, brave woman. To be able to document her journey into bipolar disorder and share it with others is remarkable."

– Elise Titman

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