Messages to Simon
Earlier this month, the Centre said farewell to Dr. Simon Davidson, one of our founders and a well-known advocate, clinician, leader, connector and researcher. He’s heading to Vancouver to play a lead role at BC Children’s hospital and spend some well-deserved time with his sons and grandchildren. It’s never easy to say good bye, but Amy Boudreau, our Director of People, Planning and Performance captured it perfectly in her emotional tribute to Simon at the Centre’s sendoff event.
In her own words…
In April 2005, when I walked through the doors of the Centre for the very first time for an interview with Ian Manion and Simon Davidson, I felt a very different vibe - different from any other interview that I'd been in. They were relaxed, passionate about the Centre, fun and interested in my 'fit' - whatever that meant…
Lucky for me, I was asked to join their team, and what a ride it's been... From those very early days, it was easy to see and feel Simon's passion and commitment to improving the child and youth mental health care system. Daring to dream of an integrated system for child and youth mental health has become synonymous with Simon for me and everyone else who has been lucky enough to work with him. The story of how the Centre started from a phone call and some magical blueprints will forever be etched in my brain. Those early days were challenging and rewarding, all at the same time. I remember when he, Ian and I sat in the old interview room and came up with a strategy for how the system might begin to integrate - many of our proposed ideas have come true over the past decade.
Although we are saying goodbye to Simon today, there are a few things that will live on long beyond his departure. They are things that we are all so thankful for.
- For the legacy that you and Ian, as partners and co-founders, designed and built with your combined passion, drive and vision for change. Everyone who has been lucky enough to work at the Centre thanks you for the opportunity to follow and learn from you.
- For the value you place on youth engagement and how you have shifted the language and recognition of engagement as an evidence-informed practice provincially, nationally and internationally. The youth and their families across this province and beyond thank you.
- For the bold, provocative spirit you bring to the table to push people to think differently, more creatively. The province thanks you.
- For the vibrant colours you wear each day, that serve as a symbolic reminder of the vibrancy, passion and positivity you bring to each table. Your colleagues and partners thank you.
- For your unwavering belief in collaboration and the collective power of positive partnerships. Everyone thanks you.
- For your kind and thoughtful friendship over the years, to me and my family who will miss you dearly. Andrew, I and our boys thank you so very much.
For all these reasons and many more, it is bitter sweet for the Centre to say good bye to you. We had 12 great years with your leadership, wisdom, passion and friendship, and we know that BC Children's Hospital couldn't be more lucky to have you. Keep connecting, partnering and engaging - there has never been a more important time for child and youth mental health. There is still so much work to do, but children, youth and families everywhere have a tireless champion in you and we know you’ll never give up fighting for them.
Best of luck to you on this colorful new adventure - it suits you!
And in the words of the mother of one of Simon’s patients…
Dr. Davidson has treated our daughter for anxiety, depression and OCD for the past 8 years. If ours is typical of his other patients’ stories, then he will be leaving an indelible mark on the residents of Eastern Ontario.
Before we met him, our beautiful, intelligent, loving daughter was sinking. None of it made sense to us. In the absence of a diagnosis, she was officially a “problem,” and her symptoms had a negative impact on every aspect of her life.
For us as parents, it was a combination of frustration, heartbreak and even anger to watch as a seemingly never-ending vortex of inexplicable emotional panic and desolation dragged her down. We know the path we were headed down was leading us nowhere. She wasn’t getting better.
Once she started seeing Dr. Davidson, everything began to change. At first, she felt more open talking to a female professional. Dr. Davidson did not take offence: he assigned her to a woman psychology student, under his tutelage. It was a great start, and our daughter got better and didn’t go to CHEO for a while. Sometime later she had a setback and needed to see him again. But at the time she wouldn’t/couldn’t enter Dr. Davidson’s office.
Dr. Davidson didn’t balk – he simply met with her in the hallway near the elevators, and the following week in the hallway near his office, and the week after that outside his office door. Eventually, he got her to sit in his office, where they’ve been meeting monthly for the past few years. As far as we know, they talk about everything openly and honestly. Dr. Davidson’s influence – intelligence, humor, discipline, kindness and level-headedness (to name only a few qualities) – is unmistakable in our daughter’s growth as a person, not just a patient. We are so grateful for that.
Today, we live with a happy, healthy, engaged, bright, active and funny teenager. Most aggravations for us have to do with things like sleeping past her alarm, or the foul-mouthed rap music she listens to. We know that she will have ups and downs, but thanks to Dr. Davidson, she has a wealth of strategies to help maintain her mental and physical health.
Our whole family has learned a lot from Dr. Davidson. For example:
- The mind of a clinically anxious person is like a filing cabinet with all the drawers open – eventually it will tip over and spill out.
- These children are not bad people, but they often end up in bad interactions that perpetuate the emotional damage.
- Most families have clinically ill people but don’t identify it and don’t treat it.
- The brain of a young person is malleable and incredibly responsive to positive change.
- And of course, he said talking about what we’ve learned helps. To that extent, Dr. Davidson’s sphere of influence has expanded to a wider circle of close friends and family.
As we see it, Dr. Davidson treats mental illness the way we would expect a doctor to treat a cancer patient or a child with a broken arm. He is professional, matter-of-fact, thorough, and compassionate: He treats symptoms, but focuses on long-term health. He has no tolerance for negativity or shame in discussions about mental health, and we note that he’s worked publicly to condemn the stigma surrounding mental illness, and to promote better ways of treating children and youth.
Dr. Davidson’s departure for British Columbia will leave a gap in our lives, and in Ottawa’s mental health landscape. CHEO was lucky to have him, and Vancouver will be richer for his presence. Our family will always be grateful to him for everything he has done for us and others.