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Frederick W. Thompson leaves a unique legacy of mental health research and care

Aug 27, 2015

A memorial fund has been established to honour the legacy of Mr. Thompson
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The passing of Toronto businessman and philanthropist Frederick W. Thompson in late August saddened the Sunnybrook community and brought important attention to his greatest health-care legacy.

The Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre at Sunnybrook was established in 2012 as a result of a landmark $10-million gift made by Mr. Thompson; the largest donation in Canada for anxiety disorders and among the largest in mental health. The centre is dedicated to the treatment and research of anxiety disorders, with a focus on obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD).

“I hope this centre helps create a greater awareness of what people are going through, opens doors to treatment and encourages people to support OCD research and care at Sunnybrook,” Mr. Thompson said in 2012. “But most of all, I hope it helps set families on the path to truly being healthy again.”

In the last year alone, the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre received 463 new referral requests from across the Greater Toronto Area.

Rodney Kerr is one of them. Living with depression and multiple anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder for nearly 20 years, he feels he’s finally receiving the support he needs.

“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in a group therapy workshop for OCD at the Thompson Centre,” he says. “It helps to be around people who understand me and remind me that I am not alone in the struggle. Although the journey still continues, I am able to take what I have learned with me to better cope with this disorder.”

Lisa Walter, an artist, lived with OCD for years without even realizing it. “I was having these violent thoughts that would suddenly just explode into my mind’s eye and those thoughts got out of control. I didn’t think of them as mental illness,” she says.

After a therapist mentioned her illness sounded like obsessive-compulsive disorder, Lisa was shocked. “I was thinking to myself ‘that’s ridiculous. I don’t wash my hands. I don’t line my pencils up.’ Of course, I had those same stereotypical ideas about it as so many people have,” she admits.

Lisa went to see Dr. Peggy Richter, head of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre, who confirmed the diagnoses. “Without [the authority and expertise of Dr. Richter] I wouldn’t have been willing to seek help for obsessive-compulsive disorder. I would’ve gone on hating myself, blaming myself…My life was hanging by a thread by the time I saw Dr. Richter,” she says.

“I wanted to continue to work towards being a person who was not defined by mental illness…I needed to take the time to get my feet back under me and I’ve got the support around me to be able to do that.”

“I see firsthand how mental illness pulls lives and families apart,” says Dr. Richter. “Because of Mr. Thompson’s generosity, thousands of people like Rodney and Lisa now have a place to turn and people who can help them.”

Frederick W. Thompson