Child and youth advocate to release report into the death of Lexi Daken

·3 min read
Lexi Daken died by suicide in February within days of leaving the emergency room without receiving any mental health intervention.  (Submitted by Chris Daken - image credit)
Lexi Daken died by suicide in February within days of leaving the emergency room without receiving any mental health intervention. (Submitted by Chris Daken - image credit)

Shaina Harvey knows what it's like to go to the emergency room with suicidal thoughts.

And not get any help.

"I've kind of seen both ends of it — either from me bringing somebody else ... or being there myself — and I've just never really seen a positive outcome for any of those situations," said the 23-year-old.

Harvey, a fourth-year biology and psychology student at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, said lots of young people have had the same experience.

She said it was a common theme heard during a recent roundtable on mental health that included several young people from across Atlantic Canada.

The death of 16-year-old Lexi Daken was a major impetus for the roundtable.

Submitted by Chris Daken
Submitted by Chris Daken

The Maugerville teen went to the emergency room at a Fredericton hospital on Feb. 18 and asked for mental health help. Months earlier, she had tried to take her own life and a school guidance counsellor recognized that she was struggling.

After waiting eight hours, Lexi left without any mental health intervention. She died by suicide less than a week later.

Harvey said Lexi's death has been "a big wake-up call" for people.

"It never should have gotten that far, and it certainly doesn't reflect very good things about the health care system in New Brunswick and what's being done for mental health in general," she said.

Submitted by Shaina Harvey
Submitted by Shaina Harvey

The organizer of the roundtable agrees.

"It's a shame that events like this have to happen for people to talk about it and for the public to give attention to the mental health needs of young folks," said Jill Stringer, a second-year masters student at the University of Guelph who co-chairs the National Youth Advisory Council with the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.

Stringer and Harvey are both hopeful that today's announcement by New Brunswick's child and youth advocate will spur meaningful change.

Norman Bossé began his Youth Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Services Review in March in the wake of public outcry over Lexi's death.

After releasing an interim report in June, Bossé is scheduled to release his full report this morning.

Stringer hopes "action comes of this, rather than just more talk."

She says children shouldn't have to die to get attention.

"We often wait for things to get worse before we address them … but these problems haven't suddenly appeared. They've existed for a long time for many different reasons," said Stringer.

Submitted by Jill Stringer
Submitted by Jill Stringer

She said the consensus of the roundtable participants is that the system doesn't adequately address the mental health needs of young people — particularly those in crisis situations.

Stringer said she hopes Bossé's report includes improvements to emergency psychiatric services. She said the system relies too heavily on emergency departments.

"Often these emergency rooms are understaffed and the staff are overworked and not necessarily trained in psychiatric emergency care. We need to invest in appropriate psychological emergency services."

If you are in crisis or know someone who is, here is where to get help:

CHIMO hotline: 1-800-667-5005 / http://www.chimohelpline.ca

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868, Live Chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566

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