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May 1, 2014

Celebrating Education: Helping Kids Cope with Anxiety and Depression

Learning and education have always been central to the mission of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). When the Learning Institute was founded in 2007, the organization strengthened its focus on education and teaching activities including the education of students and academic trainees, the continuing professional development for staff, as well as education for children, their families and the community.  

On April 5, 2014, the Learning Institute organized a public event that attracted a full house at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning.

The title of the event was “Helping Kids Cope with Anxiety and Depression” and the keynote speaker was Kendra Fisher, a champion for de-stigmatizing issues around mental health. “Talk about your anxiety problems, ask for help, don’t do it alone,” she advised participants.

The event was fully subscribed three weeks in advance and had a waiting list of 50. Organized with the support of the John T. Law Memorial Fund, the symposium was open to families, whether or not they have children in the care of SickKids.

See caption
Dr. Jonathan Kronick, Chief of Education, welcomes participants to “Helping Kids Cope with Anxiety and Depression” April 5 at the Gilgan Centre.

The day was a great success and another similar event may well be offered in the future, said Dr. Jonathan Kronick, Chief of Education.

Fisher told the audience about her journey with anxiety – from a high-performing athlete on her way to becoming goalie for the Canadian Olympic hockey team, to a fearful recluse in denial, and now, with the help of lifestyle changes and medication, a dynamic champion for greater awareness and dialogue about mental health. Her speech drew a standing ovation.

One member of the audience asked if Fisher knew what brought on her depression. She mentioned several possibilities: a car accident, her mother’s career as a public figure, a family history of mental illness. However, she knows now that to prevent another bout of depression she must remain physically active, get enough sleep, eat properly and continue to take her medication regularly.

“We can live with anxiety and depression,” Fisher said. “You should know that if you are sick there is help available. I am grateful to be part of this important discussion today.”

See Kendra Fisher’s website.

Other speakers included Dr. Suneeta Monga, Director of Undergraduate Medical Education for the Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, who started the day with a talk about how to recognize and understand the symptoms of an anxiety disorder in children and adolescents.

See Dr. Monga’s address.

Next, Dr. Daphne Korczak, Head of the Inpatient Psychiatry and Day Treatment programs, described the nature of depression. A mother and her 16-year-old daughter shared their story about the girl’s descent into depression and her family’s support as she sought treatment. They now understand that depression is a disease like any other, diabetes for example, the mother said.

See Dr. Korczak’s address.

In afternoon breakout sessions, participants heard about such topics as advocating for mental health and navigating the system, medications and non-medicinal treatments, and drugs and alcohol. They discussed the different roles of the parent/caregiver, health-care provider, teacher, and child-care provider.

The following organizations were exhibitors, offering resources and help for participants:

Centre for Brain & Mental Health
Canadian Family Advisory Network
Healthy Minds Canada
Sashbear Foundation
Kinder Minds
The Jack Project

See also these resources from AboutKidsHealth:

Monarch’s Mission (game for tweens to help cope with emotion)