Toronto parents after schizophrenic son’s suicide: 'This isn’t over'
Published Tuesday, March 26, 2013 9:40AM EDT
It’s been just over two weeks since Christopher Skelly, a 23-year-old Torontonian with schizophrenia, took his own life by leaping from a bridge.
Now his parents, Lesley and David Skelly, are speaking publicly about his mental illness. They are sharing their experience of how confusing navigating the mental health system can be in Canada, in the hopes others can benefit.
“I think it’s really important that everybody out there is aware of [mental illness],” Lesley Skelly told CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday.
She said it’s important that when people are diagnosed with a mental illness, they shouldn’t feel isolated and that family members, especially parents, should not feel the need to hide the condition from family or friends.
But even with outside support, Lesley said it can still be difficult for many individuals and their family members to navigate the often complicated mental health system.
“We didn’t know anything about [schizophrenia] or where to go for help,” Lesley said.
Christopher, better known as “Kit” was diagnosed in late 2008 during his second year of university. That’s when the Skellys began educating themselves about the mental illness estimated to affect approximately 300,000 Canadians.
“We had to read everything that we could,” David said. “Our house was littered with books on schizophrenia.”
Lesley said her then 19-year-old son was prescribed mind-numbing medication. She said the drugs helped him for a while, but soon after Kit had a psychotic episode and the disease took on a life of its own.
“I think since that point he was never able to get rid of the voices,” Lesley said. “He was probably very confused.”
Lesley said Kit also abused recreational drugs and lived on and off the streets for two years.
On March 9, Kit jumped off the Leaside Bridge over the Don Valley in Toronto.
The tragedy motivated the Skellys to share their son’s story.
David said the response so far has been “fantastic.”
“We’ve been smothered and bombarded by letters, notes,” he said.
“We need that support. This isn’t over.”
To learn more about schizophrenia, visit the Schizophrenia Society of Canada.