The University of Regina is recognizing the work done by former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy by presenting him with an honorary degree.
At the convocation ceremony Wednesday, Kennedy received an honorary degree for his work advocating against child abuse, bullying and harassment.
“I don’t do this work for awards, I don’t do this work to receive any type of accolades but I think I do this work to raise the awareness of the issues we represent,” he said.
Kennedy founded Respect Group Inc., which provides online training programs to prevent abuse and discrimination in sports, school and work.
Kennedy said the university allowing him to have such a platform is significant in addressing the issues surrounding child abuse and to help people not be scared to deal with those issues.
“To me, that’s what ( an honorary degree) represents, is that this is important. But for a long time in our journey in doing this work, we always had to be dealt with under the table. For me that’s the significance of receiving this honorary degree,” he said.
“I want to represent all of the voices of the people and kids that we serve across this country and around the world.”
Given all the statistics, Kennedy said what we know is that the impact of child abuse is real.
Over the last five and a half years, his group has investigated 7,000 cases of child abuse.
“What are the kids struggling with? We know that kids who are abused are 59 times more likely to be arrested as juveniles,” he explained.
According to Kennedy, 80 per cent of people in treatment centres have disclosed early childhood abuse and kids who are abused have a 30 per cent higher chance of dropping out of high school.
He said kids who experience abuse are also 26 times more likely to experience youth homelessness.
“The reality is, when we hear kids that are struggling, we need to understand the impact and that connection of the root cause to the majority of the issues that we end up dealing with when they’re adults,” Kennedy said.
“A lot of times kids don’t know they feel right, they don’t feel good (and) can’t explain it and we want to try and connect the dots and bring a little knowledge to mental health.”
Kennedy said over 80 per cent of mental health issues stem from adverse childhood experiences so the goal is to educate people on those issues and how to get help.
– With files from Lisa Schick and Jessika Guse