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Money raised for centre for depression research



The Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation collects $150,000 to date

Kerry Dennehy knows first hand the anguish and pain of depression.

Almost two years ago his son, Kelty Patrick Dennehy, committed suicide. He was just 17 years old and suffering from depression.

Since this devastating loss Dennehy has been determined to shed more light on the disease through the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Foundation.

With the help of his wife Ginny and another family who also lost their son, Dennehy is hoping to raise enough money to establish a Centre of Excellence for Depression Research at the University of British Columbia.

So far they have managed to raise $150,000 with the help of the local community. While Dennehy admits that’s a lot of money, it’s still just a drop in the bucket. It will cost about $5-million to establish the centre.

"The very encouraging thing is that we’ve just taken the first step in Whistler and the reaction has been fantastic," he said.

"We think people are really listening to this cause."

Dennehy is hoping to get about half of the money, about $2.5 million, from the provincial government. Premier Gordon Campbell’s father also committed suicide and so he has a sympathetic ear to the cause, he said.

The $150,000 was raised in Whistler through private donations and a September golf tournament at Nicklaus North called the Kelty Patrick Dennehy Drive Fore Life, held in Kelty’s honour. That tournament alone brought in $125,000.

The money will accumulate in a trust fund at the University of British Columbia/Vancouver General Hospital.

Eventually the goal is to establish a Chair, a leading expert in depression, at the psychiatric department at UBC. There are already two of these Chairs at the University of Toronto.

The UBC chair will run the Centre of Excellence, looking into different programs, which will help with the early identification of the disease. The Chair will also suggest appropriate intervention in dealing with depression.

"There are all kinds of ways to attack it," said Dennehy.

He points to more research into different drugs and brain scanning machines.

"There’s lots of research going around now in new brain scanning machines that can actually pick up where serotonin is lacking and they can actually detect depression," he said.

Also, more work needs to be done training doctors about the disease.

"One way we could direct the Chair is to implement more programs into the medical courses for the medical students, so they’re better trained on it," he said.

Another major way of understanding depression is through education.

Already the foundation has distributed 3,800 booklets about depression and suicide to almost all the secondary students in the Howe Sound corridor.

This year money has been set aside to potentially bring guest speakers into the high schools for workshops.

By educating people and talking about the disease, Dennehy is hoping to break down the stigma associated with mental illness.

"It’s the last skeleton to come out of the closet socially," said Dennehy.

"The stigmatism of mental illness is so rooted in history that people just don’t want to talk about it."

Kelty was about 15 years old when his parents first started noticing the signs of his depression.

"(Depression) leaves people with a very insidious debilitating disease," said Dennehy.

In a Web site dedicated to his son, Dennehy writes:

"I hung a cross in the place where Kelty took his life, and I often look up at it and ask ‘Why?’ I think of what could have been. I think of his pain and suffering. The only way he could think to end the pain was to end his life. His defenses were so low – his resistance none."

Suicide is the number two killer of teens in Canada. The teen/youth suicide rate has tripled since 1970.

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