This post is written in response to the story written about Jaedra Winter who died by suicide on June 19, 2015
“Melissa, I’m so sorry. I had no idea. I wish we, this community, could have done more”.
That’s what I want to say if I meet Melissa Winter. On June 19, 2015, her teenage daughter, Jaedra died after numerous suicide attempts. Melissa describes Jaedra as smart, athletic, an “overachiever”, and kind. She was loved by her family and many friends. She also wrote eloquently about her experience with mental illness.
As someone who has struggled with mental Illness for the better part of his life, I hear the suicide notes read by her Mom.
I recognize those words. I remember the place she is writing from, it’s very real.
But as a Dad of a teenage girl who reminds me so much of Jaedra, I start to feel panic. What will I do if, God forbid, she struggles with mental illness? What will be different? Will what we do be enough?
Today, writing as the CEO of an organization who serves hundreds of youth and adults living with mental illness, I assure you this story is as familiar as it is tragic. Every day, many young people struggle and suffer with thoughts, voices, feelings that they can’t control. They feel isolation, hopelessness, helplessness, and hurt. At Turning Leaf, we see this crisis daily: active suicide ideation, frequent suicide attempts, and self-medication with narcotics or alcohol. All of these people are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.
After reading the CBC article about Jaedra Winter, I’m left feeling that many parts of our community attempted to rally together to help this girl: psychiatry, psychologists, counsellors, students, friends, family. I sense hundreds were impacted by Jaedra’s life. She left a legacy of caring for people and awareness for mental health.
If what Dr. Laurence Katz, a medical director for child and adolescent mental health at the Health Sciences Centre indicates in the CBC article is accurate; approximately 5% of the provincial health budget is dedicated to mental health services. Juxtapose that statistic with Health Canada’s assessment that 1 in 5 Canadians live, struggle or suffer from mental illness. That alone outlines the disproportionate funding that is available to Manitobans struggling with mental illness.
I started out by saying I’m sorry to Melissa. But I want to end by saying thank you. Thank you for reconnecting us, our community, to the critical need for more mental health services in the right ways, at the right times.
– Barkley Engel, CEO of Turning Leaf Community Support Services
Click here to read the full CBC article: Teen’s suicide note criticizes mental health care for youth — and so does her mom
If you know someone who you believe needs help coping with mental illness or intellectual challenges you can fill out a referral form for services by Turning Leaf.
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