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Comedian/artist puts his stamp on mental health and therapy

Before J. Peachy reinvented himself, people knew him as Geoffrey and he seemed the very image of success.

Before J. Peachy reinvented himself, people knew him as Geoffrey and he seemed the very image of success.

He had a wife, they owned a home, he had a nice car and he managed a successful telecommunications portfolio that included highly sensitive military contracts.

Then, on a work day like any other in November 2004, Geoffrey got up from his office desk and retired to the bathroom never to re-emerge.

"My world just came crashing down," Peachy said. "My doctor said I suffered a workplace mental health injury."

He lost his job, his home, his wife, his car and, he thought, his mind.

But today, the Anmore painter, stand-up comedian, CJSF radio host and mental health activist accepts that he, like hundreds of thousands of Canadians, has bipolar disorder - a disease characterized by acute mood swings, from manic excitement to crippling depression.

Two weeks ago, the Anmore man - who adopted his new moniker "as a way to separate myself from my past life and be Just Peachy" - submitted three of his paintings to a stamp-design contest hosted by the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health.

As of Monday, all three of his disorder-inspired designs were rated in the top 30 by visitors to the website.

And although having his artwork distributed on a Canadian stamp would be a "dream come true" for Peachy, he has learned not to put too much stock into such lofty expectations.

"Whether I win it or not, I feel I've already won something," Peachy said, adding that all three stamp designs have already been bought by private collectors. "The fact that people want to buy my therapy says so many things already."

Cindy Daoust, who manages the Canada Post foundation, called the response from artists across Canada "overwhelming," citing over 300 submissions by the contest's close on Monday.

"This is the first time in our history of 159 years that the Canadian public will vote on a stamp design," she said.

A panel of judges will narrow the field to 19 semi-finalists to be announced on Feb. 14, from which the public can go online until March 14 to vote for their favourite design, to be announced in early April.

And while Peachy describes his recovery process as "still very raw, up and down and day-to-day," for him, his art and his comedy are the best medicine he has found.

"I tell people, 'Look, I'm Filipino and I have bipolar disorder, you know? My life's like a box of chocolates: brown on the outside and nutty on the inside.'"

Started in 2008, the Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health had raised over $2.5 million in grants for 32 non-profit mental health organizations by the end of 2009, including the BC Schizophrenia Society and the Richmond branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association.