Parents and teachers must be up front when talking to teens about bullying, depression and suicide, a mental health expert told a packed auditorium at an Ottawa high school Tuesday night.

Suicide prevention

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Dr. Ian Manion, who moderated the information session on teen mental health at Sir Robert Borden High School, said parents who talk more frequently and openly with their kids may be able to get them to open up about problems.

"When something is going wrong the conversation can turn to things that are a bit more difficult to talk about and sometimes we're just encouraging people to ask the tough questions," said Manion.

"'Are you having a hard time? When you are having a hard time do you think about doing things that may not be healthy? Do you think about hurting yourselves, killing yourselves?' Those kinds of questions are hard to ask but it's amazing sometimes how young people will open up when the questions are asked."

Hundreds of people turned out at the event, which was hosted by The Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, CHEO and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

The information session comes after 15-year-old A.Y. Jackson student Jamie Hubley, the son of Ottawa city councillor Allan Hubley, committed suicide.

Allan Hubley said his openly gay son was suffering from depression and was also bullied while in school. The incident has renewed a conversation in Ottawa about the need to have open discussions in schools about mental illness and bullying.

The OCDSB said Tuesday night it would offer more training to staff on "equity and inclusionary practices", updating its website to provide links to healthcare resources and expanding the feeling of belonging from the classroom to the hallways, lunchrooms and playgrounds.