For the media

Turning tragedy into hope for others

By The Health News Team | September 28, 2023
Jayden Gillespie of San Diego

In memory of their son, the Gillespie family established the Jayden T. Gillespie Foundation to provide mental health education and support.

Dr. Robert Gillespie, a cardiologist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, lost his son, Jayden, to suicide in 2022. Now, he’s on a mission to save other families from the same tragedy and provide support to those who need it most.

Jayden was the son any parent would be proud of, and the friend everyone wants to have. He was kind, smart, vibrant and motivated. He was a high school U.S. Presidential Scholar, a senior film major at Loyola Marymount University and a loving son.

In 2020, Jayden was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Last January, just two years later, he took his own life at the age of 22.

Reducing stigma, providing support

In memory of their son, and driven by a profound desire to help others, the Gillespie family established the Jayden T. Gillespie Foundation. The foundation is committed to shedding light on mental health disorders in young people, reducing the stigma that often surrounds them, and offering much-needed support.

“We wanted to do more to deal with the issue of mental health," Dr. Gillespie says. “To go into our communities and do our very best to prevent families such as ours from having the same trauma and unfortunate outcome.”

Mental health remains a topic shrouded in stigma, and the mental health of Black Americans is a significant concern. Between 2018 and 2021, suicides increased more than 36% among Black people ages 10 to 24 years old. Dr. Gillespie is hoping to help bring those numbers down by tackling mental health issues through the legacy of his son's memorial foundation.

"We have to educate people to understand this is not something you should be ashamed of — no more than if you had a heart issue or if you broke an arm,” Dr. Gillespie says.

The Jayden T. Gillespie Foundation is dedicated to removing the barriers that hinder young people with mental health challenges from seeking help. The foundation's approach includes scholarships, mentorship programs, and educational initiatives tailored to underserved populations. Their mission is to foster awareness, provide critical resources, and promote open conversations about mental health.

“My message is we have to tackle this thing and not be ashamed about mental illness,” Dr. Gillespie says. “Talk about it. Let others know your experience. Get out there and make a difference. Don't shy away from it.”

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