Lexi's legacy: Family fights for better mental health access after losing daughter to suicide
FREDERICTON -- Lexi Daken loved to ski and play softball, travel and joke around. A 97 per cent wasn't enough, it had to be 100 – and she mused about going into medicine.
But her parents say there was something troubling the 16-year-old.
They noticed their fun-loving daughter wasn't herself last summer, a couple of months after the pandemic began.
"We tried to get, you know, typical teenager, they don't want to talk to their parents right?" her father said. "So, once school started, then she seen the guidance counsellor."
Sitting at their kitchen table on Thursday, her parents Shawna Betts and Chris Daken, and sister Piper, shared that Lexi attempted suicide in November.
They say she was given a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and depression after a trip to the emergency room at the Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton.
But, after that, her parents say trying to get any more help through New Brunswick's health system was extremely challenging.
Then, last Thursday, Lexi's guidance counsellor felt she should go back to the ER.
According to text messages sent between Lexi and her father, she got to the hospital around 1 p.m., accompanied by the counsellor.
"I said okay, I'm in Saint John right now, I will head out and I'll be there shortly," Daken said.
But because of COVID-19 protocols, Daken and the school employee weren't allowed to trade places. So, he said the counsellor remained with Lexi and the two waited to see a psychiatrist.
'She never got to see the psychiatrist'
"Our intentions were, once she seen the psychiatrist at the time to get her admitted to the hospital and really get her the help she needed," he said. "But she never got to see the psychiatrist."
According to text messages and a phone call, Lexi was told at about 8:30 pm that a psychiatrist was no longer available and that staff would have to contact the psychiatrist on-call.
Her family says, she didn't want to be a burden.
"What they told us at the time is that we'll send off a referral to mental health and you should hear from them in two weeks. And I have yet to hear from them, even from back in November."
"Even with the second trip to the ER we still haven't received any contact from mental health," Betts said.
Lexi died by suicide on Wednesday morning.
Her family says had she gotten the help she needed last Thursday, she would still be alive.
'We should all be angry as hell about that'
"My 16-year-old little girl who just got her beginner's and celebrated her sweet 16 last month," Betts said. "But this is happening to families every day in New Brunswick and we should all be angry as hell about that."
Piper says Lexi was her best friend and felt she had to speak out about her death, because she wants to make sure other families don't suffer the same loss.
"The night before … we were having a conversation, we were planning a grad trip together to Kenya because she was supposed to go this summer and she never got to go because of COVID," she said. "I know she loved me and I know that she knows that I loved her, but I just wish that I could tell her one more time."
CTV Atlantic contacted the Horizon Health Network, and Margaret Melanson, the network's vice-president of quality and patient-centred care, said patient representatives are always available to discuss any concerns patients may have in order to offer support and guidance, but that she can't comment further due to confidentiality reasons.