Academics reaching out to Greater Victoria’s bipolar community

Researchers in town to recruit bipolar individuals for new study

Psychiatrist Dr. Erin Michalak wants to hear from more people suffering from bipolar disorder as part of her research team's work into the condition.

Erin Michalak is all too familiar with the confines of the ivory tower.

As a psychiatrist and head of a bipolar disorder research team at the University of B.C., Michalak knew there had to be a way of engaging participants in a way that not only collected better information, but involved them in the research itself.

She and her colleagues with the Collaborative Research Team (CREST-BD), who study psychosocial issues in bipolar disorder, call it community-engaged research.

“It’s about the distribution of power,” Michalak said.

“In traditional medical research, it’s quite siloed in the academic community. What we’re seeing now is moving research out from that.”

There are about 30 core researchers in the program, including some in Victoria, but thousands of people have participated since its inception in 2007, Michalak said.

Co-ordinators hope to find more people who deal with bipolar disorder for an online quality-of-life study in the coming months.

Michalak is visiting Victoria on March 18 and 19 to discuss bipolar disorder and address the stigma that exists around mental health issues.

On March 18, she and University of Victoria colleague Joanna Cheek will speak briefly at the Royal Jubilee Hospital’s Eric Martin Pavilion Theatre following the Movie Monday screening of A Summer in the Cage at 6:30 p.m. The theatre is at 2328 Trent St. (enter off Fort Street).

Tuesday’s public event happens in the Woodward Room of the hospital’s Begbie Hall, 2101 Richmond Rd. at 7:30 p.m.

“We tend to see the bad news stories, when things go wrong. The stuff we don’t focus on so much is when people hold down good jobs and get on with their lives,” Michalak said. “One of our missions is to make sure we’re sharing the fact that people can live well.”

To learn about CREST-BD and how to become involved, visit For more on Movie Monday, visit

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