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Friends and family celebrate life of Christopher Peloso

Peloso was found dead after battling depression

A memorial service for former Ontario cabinet minister George Smitherman's husband was held Friday morning at the Wellesley Community Centre with friends and family pledging to end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

Christopher Peloso, 40, was found dead by police earlier this week after taking his own life following a battle with mental illness.

His death, along other recent military suicides, prompted former Liberal leader Bob Rae to call for a national plan on suicide prevention.

Speaking at the memorial Friday Peloso's father Reno said "when people come up to us and (ask) what happened, it's going to be easier for us to say you know what, Chris suffered from depression and committed suicide and there's no shame in that."

 

Friend and former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall called on mourners to create a legacy for Peloso.

"A legacy of a society where stigma and stereotypes are eliminated and all of us and all of those we love are fully included and all of us are supported and nurtured through illness, whatever form it takes."

"A man took his life because the pain in his brain was unrelenting. A strong man and a courageous man," said Smitherman, who eulogized his late husband. "We have to find peace in knowing that our little Yellowbird is free."

A visibly emotional Smitherman, known for both his aggressive political style and an openness about his private life that's rare among public figures, was near tears as he spoke about his husband's battle with mental illness and breaking the news to their two young children, both under the age of six. The pressures Peloso felt were ``unbelievable and insurmountable,'' Smitherman said.

"He had so much strength,'' he told the packed crowd in a downtown community centre.

``He would never say no, he would never complain and he certainly would never really ask for help.''

Peloso was a devoted stay-at-home dad to their adopted son and daughter and adored his adult biological daughter from a previous relationship, Smitherman said. 

``While we can focus on the glaring reality that he took his own life at a shockingly young age, you mustn't lose sight of his mark on me and our family,'' Smitherman said.

``We are his legacy project. I'm the better man for it.''

Peloso's father Reno said he and his wife are struggling with guilt about what they could have done to stop their son from taking his own life. But the outpouring of support is helping them through it, he said.

 Peloso also disappeared in September and was found by police two days later in a wooded area in the city.

Smitherman and Peloso were married in August 2007.

Smitherman served as the province's deputy premier, health minister and energy minister before he stepped down to run for Toronto mayor in 2010.

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  1. Kelli posted on 01/03/2014 08:44 PM
    I was in the us military and ended up with PTSD married a Canadian and in 2010 was hospitalized for depression along with a sleep disorder at belleville general hospital. Every night I would beg the doctor for something for sleep so I could get more than 3 hours of sleep. Before I was hospitalized I tried everything even yoga to relax so I could sleep. I overdosed on my medication that I was on hoping that it would either knock me out so I could sleep or kill me because I was tried everything. I was told just deal with it and learn to cope with it. I feel the doctors and nurses in Ontario have no empathy towards people with mental illness and this is why so many soliders that were in Afghanistan killed themselves because they are just told either it will just go away or just deal with it. I finally had to go back to the states to get treatment because I was at the pointe to where I was tired of feeling the way I did. It's a shame that someone like the public eye is finally bringing attention to how mental illness is being delt with in the province of Ontario
    1. RandyW posted on 01/04/2014 12:06 PM
      @Kelli It's all very sad that Mental illness is not treated in this province the way it sould be. So it begs the question. George was in government and was the Minister of Health. Why wasn't this his top priority then? But just like anything else this government does, someone close to the party in charge has to die before anything will change. So if it was just some reagular Joe this would just be another sad story and then the next day all is forgotten. Take a long look in the mirror George and pressure your friends in charge to change this. Do something good for a change, so no one else has to go though what your going though now. Take care Chris and rest in peace. God Speed!!!!
  2. Dave posted on 01/05/2014 02:48 PM
    Very sad that the only solution for some people is suicide. Lost a parent to suicide and now I battle with the same illness. There has to be a cure
  3. karen posted on 01/05/2014 06:00 PM
    We need an inquiry into poor psychiatric practises if we are to begin to recognize and address suicide with helpful treatment and interventions. We need more support and reliance upon organizations such as the Gerstein Centre.. .
    1. HP posted on 01/05/2014 06:09 PM
      @karen Doesn't anyone think it odd that humans are the only living organisms on earth capable of suicide?
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