Motivational Speaker and Broadcaster Barry Shainbaum

Good News Toronto – October 2008


By Shlomit Kriger

Barry Shainbaum uses his experiences with mental illness to inspire others

When he was 18 years old, Barry Shainbaum was told he would be sick for the rest of his life. He spent that summer in the psychiatric ward of a local hospital.

Three years later, his psychiatrist diagnosed him as manic depressive. Now known as bipolar disorder, the condition is characterized by moods that fluctuate between moments of mania and depression. He was prescribed Lithium to level his mood and was told he would have to remain permanently medicated.

Over the years, while working on his own photography business, he experienced additional bouts of depression, the worst of which came about in 1986, leading him to spend a year and a half at a downtown psychiatric boarding house. During this time, he embarked on a path to greater self-awareness, which eventually helped to change the course of his life. In addition to receiving psychotherapy, he read psychology and self-help books and explored metaphysical approaches, including astrology, karma, Kabbalah, and bio-energetic therapy.

Continuing to explore his spiritual and physical self, he went on to re-establish himself and his life.

Despite the odds, Barry, 56, youthful looking and full of zest for life, is completely cured of the mental illness. He continuously sprinkles inspiration through his work as a successful commercial photographer, author, motivational speaker, musician, and host of radio talk-show Perspectives with Barry Shainbaum.

“I once read that God doesn’t give someone any more challenges than he or she can handle,” said Barry, his eyes sparkling as he smiled from his seat on the black leather couch of his downtown Toronto photography studio. “I think there’s a lot of truth in that. We strengthen ourselves through life’s challenges.

“There are great lessons that can come from suffering. Part of the purpose of mine was for me to get to know myself, to find my inner fortitude and understand what I should do with my life.”

In July of 1998, Barry took on a project he believes he would never have considered if it weren’t for his past. Inspired by a conversation with the late Charles Templeton, former renowned Canadian author and journalist, he came up with the idea to produce a book containing portraits of celebrities, political leaders, and others who embody integrity and have made a positive impact on the world.

The book, Hope & Heroes, was turned down by 200 publishers before finally being produced in 2001. When the Hamilton Spectator interviewed Barry about his book, he publicly opened up about his journey “from mental illness to mental health” for the first time. He soon found himself featured by various media outlets, and strangers from all over commended his courage.

“I was scared,” said Barry. “What I had been through was like a deep, dark, dirty secret for me. But by talking about my experiences publicly and helping other people through that I didn’t feel demolished inside anymore.”

Nurturing a strong will to assist others, Barry went on to become a motivational speaker, encouraging others to discover their own hero within and move from obstacles to opportunities.

Barry’s radio show gig on Kitchener’s 94.3 Faith FM came three years ago, and it now also broadcasts in London and Woodstock. Guests to date have included former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman, Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club founder Mark Breslin, Dr. Phil McGraw, and actress Margot Kidder.

“The purpose of the show is to bring an element of inspiration and greater knowledge on choosing life, as well as to educate,” said Barry.

For more on Barry Shainbaum visit