The Robbie Dean Centre is a beacon of hope for families and individuals in distress or crisis that sheds light on their journey to wellness.
Before you ask why the Robbie Dean Family Counselling Centre was created, it is important to take a minute to look at 3 things;
- The physical and mental health of Renfrew County.
- The story of Robbie Dean, a young Renfrew County man.
- An organisation who wants to make Renfrew County a better and healthier place to live & flourish.
Renfrew County, unfortunately, has some of the worst health statistics in Ontario. With an almost double mental illness hospitalisation rate (750 vs. 442 per 100.000), above average rates of obesity, smoking, chronic disease, alcohol & other substance abuse (Stats Canada – Renfrew County).
These factors directly impact the mental health of our County which is exacerbated by an under-resourced system and stigma surrounding mental health. People today are still ashamed to seek mental health support and if they do, it is not always easily or readily accessible.
For Robbie Dean, growing up in Renfrew County meant going to a small high school, having best friends since childhood, working a part time job, having a girlfriend and a pick-up truck and spending countless hours riding a snowmobile or ATV. But at 17 years old he also became more and more depressed and feeling unworthy and hopeless.
This was the beginning of a year-long struggle, looking for answers, solutions, and support.
Like in many other small rural communities, a shortage of specialist physicians (35 vs. 99 per 100,000) makes accessing specialised medical support a challenge.
Current mandates and policies lead to a system that is filled with gaps and is difficult to navigate.
This is the system where Robbie and his family got lost.
Sadly in August of 2011, Robbie took his life just three months after his 18th birthday.
The Robbie Dean Centre was born out of Robbie’s mother’s grief. She wanted to do something to ensure other families in Renfrew County would not have to struggle so hard to get help.
After months of research and networking; the Robbie Dean Family Counselling Centre opened its doors in June of 2013 thanks to financial support from the Ottawa Valley Rotary Clubs.
Working with existing organisations and agencies, the Robbie Dean Centre continues to develop and implement programs to close these gaps and better meet the needs of our communities.
The Robbie Dean Centre is determined to enhance the quality of life of those who live in Renfrew County.
The Robbie Dean Centre is a community funded, registered charity.
It beats with the heart of those it supports. It lives because of them!
“In October of 2010, Robbie was diagnosed with depression. I’m not ashamed or embarrassed to tell people this because to me, it’s as if I am sharing a story about a family member who has struggled with the diagnosis of cancer.
To be honest, before 2010, I was a poster child for mental illness stigma.
I believed mental illness only affected those who had issues… like drug addiction, gender confusion or came from dysfunctional families.
However, when his depression hit my family, I quickly realised that I was so very wrong.
Depression is an illness, not a choice. Mental illness doesn’t discriminate – we are all vulnerable, no matter our family situation, financial status or community standing.
I made a very big mistake, I minimised Robbie’s diagnosis. I thought, okay, Robbie will take his medication as prescribed, we’ll get counselling and he’ll be back to being himself. I treated depression like it was the flu. I thought if we did everything the doctor ordered, it would be okay. Depression is a very serious illness. I never realised that depression could be fatal like cancer.
If you noticed earlier, I said ‘when his depression hit my family‘. That is because when one member of a family struggles with an illness, the whole family is affected. In our case, Robbie’s diagnosis meant many nights staying up and just talking through “moments” plus hours of travelling to medical appointments, and then waiting to see doctors.
Worried, hurting, helpless, tired, sad and angry….these words came to describe our household.
Don’t think that this happened over a long period of time. It was literally only a few months. In 10 months, we went from enjoying Thanksgiving weekend to standing in a cemetery on warm August weekend surrounded by family and friends.
The whole experience left my family and I reeling, but it also made us realise something very important. Life is very precious and those you love should never be taken for granted. It also made me stronger because I turned to God for strength. I needed to do something about what had happened to us.
We had a very hard time navigating a health system that was fragmented. We fell through the cracks in the support system because of rigid mandates and underfunding for mental health and wellness. As well, we were impacted by all of the same challenges of those who live in rural, under-serviced regions. We did not have specialized mental health services close to home and we had difficulty accessing the services that existed.
I was determined to turn the experience of our family tragedy into something positive – to make sure other families didn’t have to go through what we did.
In June 2012 I was invited by the President and CEO of the West Champlain Healthy Community Corporation, Jeffrey Weatherill, to address his Board of Directors.
WCHCC identified the need to fill gaps in the existing mental health system.
With the help of West Champlain, many caring people and community organizations, we have been able to create a beacon of hope for Renfrew County – The Robbie Dean Family Counselling Centre.
I am pleased that the Centre was named after my son, Robbie and that I will be able to share our experience with others.
Our goal is to provide a non-judgemental environment where people are empowered by knowing that someone is listening to them and willing to take action to address their needs.
Thanks to a whole lot of community support, a strong professional mental health and wellness team and valuable community partners we are moving toward accomplishing our mission;
“The Robbie Dean Centre provides a safe and trusted place to engage, de-escalate and coach families in distress and crisis with the goal of empowering growth through collaboration and cooperation”
By working together we will identify and maximize existing resources to change lives. It is my goal to make sure your story does not end like mine”.
Mother of Robbie Dean
Administrator of The Robbie Dean Family Centre