John Bentley Mays

For over four decades, John Bentley Mays has been a successful art and architecture columnist, critic, journalist, author and lecturer. Two of his books have been national bestsellers. He has won numerous writing awards, including Canada’s top award for magazine journalism, the President’s Medal from the National Magazine Award Foundation. His influential architecture column in the Globe and Mail, The Perfect House, is widely read.

And for most of his life, John Bentley Mays has battled severe depression.

Born in the rural beauty of the American South, John lost his father, an alcoholic, at age seven and his mother to lung cancer less than five years later. In 1968, while a 27-year old graduate student, he made his first attempt at suicide. He subsequently began treatment and a lifelong battle for recovery.

In his 1999 book, In the Jaws of the Black Dogs: A Memoir of Depression, John writes: “This book is a life with the black dogs of depression. I have written it in a clearing bounded by thickets roamed by the killing dogs, sometimes wondering, in the writing, whether I would complete it before they returned on silent paws to snatch the text and me away.”

Throughout his life, John has suffered recurrences of his illness, which are treated with combinations of therapy and medication. His strong religious faith and the support of his wife and daughter have helped to sustain him through the darkest periods.

As a patient, John has received both inpatient and outpatient services, and is a member of the Program Advisory Committee of the Geriatric Mental Health Program. And as an architecture columnist, he has written extensively on the CAMH “urban village” redevelopment, using his public platform to help spark a citywide conversation on the connection between thoughtful architectural design and mental health.

Dr. Benoit Mulsant, CAMH physician-in-chief and John’s award nominator, writes, “Mr. Mays exemplifies how somebody can face the challenge of living a full and productive life while struggling with severe and persistent mental illness. I cannot think of somebody more deserving of this award.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation

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