Kelty Patrick Dennehy may have saved another live when he took his own four years ago.
A copy of Kelty’s suicide note, which was passed out at his service, eventually made its way to a young woman tormented by thoughts of suicide. Kelty’s words made her think twice and ultimately seek out professional help.
"We just thought it was simply a note for everybody," said his father Kerry Dennehy of the family’s decision to share the note. "It wasn’t ours to keep."
And it wasn’t ours to keep quiet, he said of the tragedy that claimed his 17-year-old son who was desperately suffering from depression.
That’s one of the reasons the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, the organization dedicated to raising awareness about mental illness and removing the stigma associated with the disease, has donated money for a new depression-screening program at Whistler Secondary School.
This fall, Youth Net Whistler, will begin by holding focus sessions with small groups of students to talk about mental health issues, stresses in their lives and the different ways of coping with them.
"It’s what they (want to) talk about really," said Sarah Brandon, a Youth Net facilitator from Ottawa who was in Whistler this week to help establish the program.
Brandon and co-facilitator Hagan Riglin trained 18 local volunteers over a two-day period in Whistler.
Their goals are not only to screen for youth who are suffering from depression and to link them to resources in the corridor but to give other students, their friends, the mechanisms to cope with signs of depression in fellow students. It is also hoped that by talking about mental illness they can help break down some of the stigma, which still surrounds the disease.
"(It’s) the last thing to come out of the closet," said Dennehy of what he calls the "taboo" subject of mental illness.
Two-thirds of the program will be funded through Kelty’s foundation and the remainder through Whistler Community Services Society.
Youth Outreach Work Claire Mozes was instrumental in bringing Youth Net to Whistler after what she saw as a gap in services.
"(The youth) work on being physically fit," she said. "What are the strategies (they use) to become mentally fit?"
Youth Net Whistler will be one of nine similar programs across the country, with one major difference; only the Whistler program relies solely on volunteer support, a fact that is not lost on Dennehy.
"This community is rock solid," he said.
He is referring not only to the volunteers who donate their time, but also to the people in the community who have given generously to his fundraising efforts through the foundation.
Last year the community raised more than $200,000 for Kelty’s foundation in the annual Drive Fore Life weekend event.
That weekend is fast approaching, on Sept. 9, with a golf tournament, barbecue, and rock ’n’ roll concert at Buffalo Bill’s.
It will be a full "weekend to remember," promises Dennehy.
Ultimately the goal is that Kelty will not only have saved one other life through the words in his suicide note but that the foundation in his name will prevent more people from taking their lives. And bring mental illness out of the closet so that people can talk about it, get help and not feel shame.
For more information about the foundation and the upcoming Drive Fore Life event go to www.thekeltyfoundation.org .
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