Honouring the loss of friend Austen Berlet, the brothers of Phi Gamma Delta, a University of Western Ontario fraternity, in London, Ontario, have initiated an annual Campout in Victoria Park, to raise awareness about mental health issues. Austen suffered from bipolar disorder and died on July 20, 2009. This year, the event was held on March 26-27; proceeds were donated to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Austen Berlet was…
An intellect, an athlete, a brother. In March 2009 Austen Berlet became a founding father of the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta - he became our brother. Over the course of the next few months we grew to know Austen as a gentle, caring individual who seemed to always retain a smile. We were all floored by his ability to manipulate mathematics to produce his physics paper, “The Formulation of Einstein Field Equation Through Curved Newtonian Space Time” while still in high school. We were all impressed by his unmatched skateboard skills and his theoretical physics program… and yet we were all taken aback by his humbleness. Through the wind and grind of the planning, organization, and implementation of a new brotherhood, Austen always put his best foot forward, always put forth a plan, always gave us his all.
In all the time we knew him he never seemed to suffer from anything other than the regular exam stress, and excess library hours just like the rest of us. Unfortunately this wasn’t always the case.
As summer drew near, and our exams came and passed we said to each other, “see you in September”. We all expected an uneventful summer, work days, beach days, lazy days – we didn’t expect many sad days. Most of us came home and checked our emails to see the unthinkable and the unexpected. Emotions ran high and impacted us like a wave crushing the foundations of a home. We stared at the screen, our hearts swelled, our lungs stopped and we were faced with a terrible new day.
Austen was not and will not ever be forgotten by the brothers of the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta. We consider ourselves blessed to have known Austen and the memories of his kindness and intellect will live on. Be kind to each other. This was Austen’s wish. This will be our challenge… will you help us?
- The Brothers of the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta
Lambda Omega Colony
Austen Berlet was…
A bright, beautiful person. As a young child, Austen never sat still and almost never stopped talking. He had lots of friends and was always on the go, a trait that stuck with him throughout his life.
As a teenager, Austen developed a love of skateboarding. He helped co-ordinate and raise money for the Dorchester skate park. His calm disposition and natural ability to relate to others landed him on student council in high school. He continued to push for excellence in other areas of his life, pursuing a strong interest in physics that allowed him to attend a program at Perimeter Institute during the summer before grade twelve.
Austen was accepted at UWO for theoretical physics after high school and seemed to have everything going for him. His struggle with depression began during this time and became a cause of frustration that kept him from fully enjoying the things he loved.
Austen was diagnosed as bipolar in 2007 when he was 19 years old. He must have researched the disease before he told us about it, because he was so despondent. He said there was no cure. We told him we could find one. We were wrong. Austen died on July 20, 2009.
Entries on Austen's In Loving Memory page:
“Every memory I have of him, he is smiling, he is helping someone improve themselves; he was doing amazing things. Austen touched lives. He wasn’t just part of them, he truly got into the heart and soul of those who knew him.”
“He was like my brother; I went to him when I need guidance. He always knew what to say to make me happy.”
“His name was always being brought up by students in my classes and teachers in our staffroom. The stories were of miraculous intellectual achievements.”
“I remember watching him skateboarding and wondering how something could come so naturally to him. Every time I skate it will be for you man; you were a legend.”
We struggle daily with our loss. With your help to Canadian Mental Health, there can be hope of something better for the sufferers, family, and friends of those like Austen.
Joelle, David and LeeAnn thank-you for making this happen. Be kind to each other. This was Austen's wish.
- David, LeeAnn, Joelle Berlet
In Loving Memory of
April 15, 1988 – July 20, 2009