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Innovative approaches to mental health challenges turn patients into leaders

When she was a little girl, Kailey DeMone never dreamed of going to circus school: but she never imagined she’d want to end her life either. Now, at the age of 18, she’s seen both.

As a child, Kailey suffered from anxiety and depression, two of the most frequently diagnosed mental illnesses in youth and children. “I was suicidal, enclosed, deep and dark,” recalls Kailey. “I cut and scratched myself…I was angry with the world.”

Luckily, Kailey had access to the Adolescent Centre for Treatment (ACT) at Halifax’s renowed IWK Health Centre. Many children and adolescents can benefit greatly from early intervention for mental health concerns. That’s why the programs at IWK aren’t just focused on treatment. The Health Centre aims to help kids before they need to be admitted to the hospital.

Health care professionals at ACT designed a program to help Kailey gain confidence---including spending an afternoon with a circus school to encourage Kailey to venture out of her comfort zone. Kailey credits ACT with helping save her life, and now, she’s an enthusiastic and passionate volunteer with IWK.

Kailey is a member of Partners in Care, a group of people touched by ACT, that advise IWK on how to improve ACT based on their personal experiences. It’s now her job to think of innovative ways to challenge other teens going through the same thing she did.

“My motivation for getting better was to help other people,” said Kailey. “I want to give other people the second chance others gave me.”

As Kailey balances her active volunteer schedule with her schoolwork and a job, she’s confident she can help other kids land on their feet as well. Kailey will be attending university in the fall to pursue her goal of becoming a social worker.

“I realized I could use my skills to help other people like me,” said Kailey. “If I can do it, other people can too and I can help make their lives better.”

With 28 percent of injury-related deaths in the 15-29 year-old age group in Nova Scotia a result of suicide, IWK created a vision to change the care of suicidal youth in the Maritimes by creating the Suicidality Training on Prevention (STOP) program. RBC recently donated $750,000 to fund the development of STOP, which will ultimately reduce the number of completed suicides, the rate of repeated attempts and the number of adolescents who require hospitalization.

The RBC Foundation has donated more than $680,000 to the IWK Health Centre for Women and Children through the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project since 1989. The RBC Children’s Mental Heath Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about children’s mental health issues. Since 2008, the RBC Children’s Mental Health Project has donated over $16 million to more than 200 organizations across Canada.