by Cheryl Jackson Wednesday May 30, 2012

The Toronto Star series "Falling Through the Cracks" profiles several people who suffer from mental illness. One of those people is a young man named Kit.

I used to see Kit walking in our neighbourhood. He lived just around the corner from us, a year older than my son. They didn't know each other because my son went to a school outside our neighbourhood but my son did wear Kit's hand-me-down plaid shirts for years, thanks to the generosity of Kit's mom Leslie.

Kit looked like a typical teenager to me walking home from school, headphones in. And he was - a good student, played piano, had an older brother and a younger sister, tossed a ball around with neighbourhood boys.  But when he was in his second year of university he had a psychotic episode and ended up in hospital. He's been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder. He hears voices, sees visions, often refuses to take his medication, spends much of his time alone playing video games.

His mom and dad, Leslie and Dave, have struggled with the best way to help Kit. They've seen countless doctors, tried many medications, spent hours trying to get him to take those medications.  At the moment Kit is okay, although it sounds like he's refusing to take his next round of meds.  But as Leslie writes in her blog, she wants more than just okay. She wants him to "be active, to see people, to enjoy his friends."  I'm pretty sure she wants for him what I want for my son - that he will reach out and grab at life, have adventures, fall in love, find his passion and his life's work. She says now those dreams are gone.

Leslie and Dave have gone public with their family's story because they want to break open the stigma of mental illness. If we don't know what families go through, we'll never be able to help them and push for changes in the way our systems deal with mental health. So kudos to Leslie, Dave and especially to Kit for telling their story.

Kit was once just a boy walking to school in his plaid shirts. None of us are immune from mental illness.

Here's what we've learned about mental health and kids.  Please take the time.