The Order of Canada , the country's greatest civilian honour, is presented to exceptional people who have made a difference with their contributions to society.
Dr. Austin Mardon Ph D, is one such Canadian, and on Friday will be among those honoured in the investiture ceremony in Ottawa .
A researcher, author, and academic with degrees in geography and education, Mardon has a long history of volunteerism and community involvement.
With a number a number of books and publications under his belt, ranging in topic from astronomy to Alberta politics, Mardon was among a group of researchers who explored Antarctica as part of a NASA/NSF-sponsored project.
What makes Mardon's accomplishments all the more remarkable is that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1992. However, he continued his academic work and became an advocate for people living with mental illness, helping those with similar problems keep their illness under control.
"My attitude is that people think that if they don't have a nice house or nice things they're not well respected, they're not worthwhile, but I don't care about that stuff. What I really care about is trying to make a contribution in some small way to society. You don't get paid for that, but my attitude in life is not defined by money," says Mardon.
This approach, along with the aid of medication, are what enabled him to live a "somewhat normal" life, he says. "I still have the symptoms, but they're well under control, and I try to live a stress-less life. I live a very simple life."
While he experiences periods of paranoia, anxiety and fear, Mardon says he's "learned some techniques to adapt to that." He has also learned how to ignore the voices in his head, and knows how to resist the "lure" of hallucination.
"The voices are kind of random, they're sometimes male voices, sometimes female voices…sometimes they make sense. It's like a conversation inside your head, but I've learned to disregard the voices, it's like white noise now, I just ignore them completely."
What bothers Mardon the most is that his mind has been "slowed-down" by the illness; he is not able to write or think as well as he did before, when he was able to focus better and write much more. Now, he has to "cut things up into smaller bites."
"It also affects you in terms of your ability to communicate…I tend to be more verbal and not take up on body language, which being married might be a problem," he says with a chuckle.
He is a board member for the Edmonton-based The Champion's Centre, a non-profit Christian charity dedicated to providing supportive housing for people who face significant barriers to independent living.
Mardon is an active volunteer with the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, and has served as a member of their Board of Directors in the past. He has also been the co-chair of Unsung Heroes, a self-support group for people with schizophrenia in Edmonton, and also the founding president of the Prosper Place Clubhouse, a member-driven restorative environment for people with a history of mental illness.
"I felt that while I wasn't earning a wage, at least I could pay society back by volunteering and helping out," says Mardon, who makes most of his living from Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped.
This year marks the 100th Order of Canada, and the 40th anniversary of the award. The investiture ceremony, presided over by Governor General Michaëlle Jean, will be held in Ottawa on Friday October 26
There are three levels of the Order of Canada: Companion, Officer, and Member. This year, the honour will be bestowed on 12 officers and 28 members. Over the years, more than 5 000 people have been invested into the Order of Canada.