Lesley Skelly wants people to know schizophrenia can happen to anyone. In 2013, her son Kit who was living with schizophrenia, died by suicide at age 23. It is now her mission to let families know that what happened to Kit and her family does not have to happen to them.
“I do not focus on the tragic way I lost my son. In his name, I want to share my story, spread knowledge about schizophrenia and work to erase stigma surrounding mental illness,” Lesley says. “I believe that if my son wasn’t so ashamed and afraid of his illness, he would still be here today.”
Lesley and her husband David didn’t know where to turn when Kit was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Support for family members of individuals living with severe mental illness is minimal. “Going to Monday night support groups at the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario was the first time I met someone who had schizophrenia,” Lesley says. “It gave me hope that my son could live a normal life. I was able to meet other parents who were going through the same thing and it made me believe that life could get better.”
Now Lesley wants to help other parents and families. She is working to create a family support group in a hospital in Toronto and hopes that sharing her story will help someone as hearing others living with schizophrenia and their family members speak about their experiences helped her.
“Since going public with my story, I receive calls at least once a month from people who have a child or family member living with schizophrenia and don’t know where to turn,” says Lesley. “I would tell parents of a child with mental illness to be an advocate for your child. Find a good doctor and fight for the right treatment. It’s common to feel that you’re alone and there’s nowhere to turn but I want people to know that there is hope.”
In the memory of her son, Lesley wants to share her story and raise awareness of schizophrenia. If you are interested in hearing Lesley speak, please contact Michael Torres at email@example.com