Categories: Entertainment

Past the black clouds of youth

Kaitlin Hrudey – daughter of ex-NHLer Kelly Hrudey – publicly struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety. Together

If you think that mental illness among youths isn’t a problem or doesn’t affect anyone you know, it’s high time to check your thinking.

If you think that mental illness among youths isn’t a problem or doesn’t affect anyone you know, it’s high time to check your thinking. Kaitlin Hrudey can help talk you through that. Being the daughter of former pro hockey player Kelly Hrudey meant that she had to endure her psychological struggles on a very public stage.

Together, they will be offering a presentation on the subject on a very different stage a month from now and it’s intended to prompt a larger community dialogue.

The experts will tell you that more dialogue is needed because the problem is that big. It affects that many of us: you, me, and all of our kids. The non-experts – like Kent Davidson – will say that dialogue is probably the best place for real, meaningful change for any one person to start.

“I just think that if people better understand what some of these kids are going through then we’re all going to be better equipped to deal with it. The statistics are shocking in terms of the pervasiveness of these issues,” he suggested.

He’s the president of the St. Albert Community Foundation, the organization hosting the special presentation. Davidson was lucky enough to attend one of the Hrudeys’ previous talks and figured that the message needed an audience here in St. Albert.

Those shocking statistics he mentioned came from both the federal and municipal governments.

According to statistics published by the Canadian Mental Health Association, estimates indicate that a very broad ballpark of between 10 to 20 per cent of Canadian youths are affected by a mental illness of one form or another. Mental illness is characterized by the report as the single most disabling group of disorders around the world. The vagueness of that range indicates how incalculable the true figures are, especially since many people who are dealing with mental illness are “hidden in the shadows,” he suggested.

Davidson continued to cite the report, noting that the youth suicide rate in this country is the third highest in the industrialized world, and the second leading cause of death of those between 15 and 24.

In a recent St. Albert survey, 70 per cent of youths reported that mental health was the number one challenge they face. Not grades. Not peer pressure. Not having the latest iPhone. Mental health was at the top of an already very substantial list of stressors in their young, precious lives and it continues on through adulthood, affecting the person and everyone around her or him.

“It has an impact on everybody,” stated Erwin Lehnert, one of the concerned board members of the St. Albert Community Foundation who worked behind the scenes over many months to organize the presentation.

“It can impact any family. I think it’s everywhere,” he said. “In certain communities I suppose you could mask it in more of an affluent community. I don’t think that St. Albert is immune to anything. I think any type of awareness we can bring to it is good.”

Davidson agreed. He has had a wealth of interactions with youths through being an active community member especially including his involvement in youth sports leagues for a number of years. There have been active kids, smart kids, popular kids, loner kids, tough kids … all kinds of kids. Mental illness has had an effect on kids from every category you could think of.

“My experience is that we all know people who have struggled. I venture to say that all of us in the community know a contact or two where this has been an issue for a family. We all need to be more astute and adroit at identifying the symptoms, recognizing them so that those people can get help.”

Hrudey, along with her father Kelly, will be presenting a talk on youth mental health awareness at the Arden Theatre on Sept. 25. The event is sponsored by the St. Albert Community Foundation as part of a new initiative. All proceeds of the event will contribute to a new endowment fund for Youth Mental Health.

The presentation starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $25 each. They can be purchased at the Arden Theatre Box Office in St. Albert Place or by calling 780-459-1542.

Mental illness covers a complex landscape of issues that cannot be encompassed within a single article. The scope of the causes, the emotional and behavioural symptoms, the coping mechanisms and the treatments surrounding mental illness is enough to fill an encyclopedia set and prompt endless discussions. The Gazette will explore these issues in a series of articles leading up to the Arden event. It won’t be comprehensive but it will be a start.

We encourage our readers to explore their feelings, to talk to their friends, their family members and their children, to be open and supportive, and especially to simply listen to them. A willing ear is often worth more than any pill out there.

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.