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Lesley Skelly, Leaside mental health champion MEET YOUR NEIGHBOUR

Lesley Skelly

Lesley Skelly

Kit Skelly was just 23 when his life ended four years ago by suicide. His parents, Lesley and Dave, as well as his brother and sister, have been on a huge learning curve since then, finding ways to live with this loss.

Lesley has been involved in her community her whole life. Following in the footsteps of her community-minded mother, Lesley started volunteering by leading a Girl Guide unit when she was 22 years old. She’s still active as the leader of the Guiding group meeting at the Church of St. Augustine on Bayview. You might have seen Facebook postings from her looking for umpteen bottles of nail polish for a craft, for instance, or ideas for a special international evening for her girls. A few of her posts were about spending two weeks last summer in Alberta in the pouring rain as one of the leaders at a huge international Girl Guide camp. Keep an eye out – it’s getting to be Girl Guide cookie season, and Lesley is always selling!

It was only natural that she would want to become more involved in helping support families with mental health issues after Kit’s death. She chose to work with Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, as that was Kit’s hospital, and she knew that, while he had received good care there, there could be improvements.

She now sits as a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council to the Psychiatry Department. Wednesday, May 3, from 6:30 to 9 p.m., is a night to put on your calendar if you or your family are looking for support or information about mental health issues. This Community Open House, with opening remarks from the Chief of the Department of Psychiatry, Dr. Ari Zaretsky, will feature four separate workshops – each focusing on a different facet of mental illness:

• Taking care of the mental health of older adults

• Adding cutting-edge interventions to gold-standard treatment for mood disorders

• Addressing the healthcare gap for severe OCD

• Understanding youth mental health and accessing help

The event will be in the McLaughlin Auditorium, E-wing Ground Floor.

In addition to putting this evening together, the Patient and Family Advisory Council has worked on a new patient-friendly brochure to help families and patients in psychiatric treatment at Sunnybrook navigate the process – giving them information about schedules and rules, for instance. Peer support groups for families are being set up to help provide information and support. As well, the state-of-the-art Hurvitz Brain Sciences Centre is bringing together experts in psychiatry, neurology, imaging, pharmacology, neurosurgery, ophthalmology and geriatrics to make Sunnybrook an even greater resource.

The Bereaved Families of Ontario organization is also where you can find Lesley. She originally attended a group for parents who have lost children and found it helpful. After being trained herself, she became a facilitator for groups of six to 12 people who attend two hours a week for eight weeks.

One more place you just might see Dave and Lesley – at Adamson Barbecue on Wicksteed, the popular Texas-style BBQ hot spot – which just happens to be owned by Lesley’s son Adam and girlfriend Alison Hunt.