Removing the stigma 

Kelty Dennehy Foundation fighting depression through education


No one really wants to talk about it, certainly few people want to admit they suffer from it and yet it’s likely by 2020 that it will be the major health issue facing Canada.

Few realize this more deeply than renowned psychiatrist-researcher Dr. Allan Young. He is working to change the stigma attached to the illness and help communities realize that they can do something to help those afflicted by this deadly condition. And on Tuesday, May 23rd Young will share his insights and answer questions on depression at MY Millennium Place, starting at 6 p.m.

"This is a bit like the elephant in the corner of the room that people don’t want to talk about," said Young from his Vancouver office at UBC Hospital where he is a professor, the LEEF Chair in Depression Research, and the associate director of the Institute of Mental Health.

"People are beginning to say, ‘look, it is there,’ so recognition and a change in public attitudes is extremely important.

"I believe if you could take away the stigma or substantially reduce it that would be one of the biggest things we could do. That is why things like the Whistler night are so important. The more we can get the message across that this is a very important health-care problem hopefully that is the way to combat stigma."

Young’s visit to Whistler has been organized by the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation, which is committed to raising awareness of the magnitude of depression and the effect it has on individuals, families and communities.

The foundation, which was started by Kerry and Ginny Dennehy after their teenage son Kelty committed suicide in 2001, aims to remove stigma associated with depression by taking a leadership role in education, treatment and research.

The statistics around depression are alarming, though most people are unaware of them. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens in Canada and the third leading cause of teen deaths in the U.S.

The teen/youth suicides rates have tripled since 1970. Only 33-55 per cent of teens were identified by their doctors as having mental illness at the time of the death and only 15 per cent of suicide victims are in treatment at the time of their death.

Indeed, said Young, most suicidal people visit a health care professional in the week before they try to take or take their own life. But often the patient will mask their depression by complaining of other medical conditions and some health care professionals do not pick up on the hidden problem.


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