The twin brother of a woman who ended her own life last week at a Nova Scotia prison is speaking out about the sister he loved, and the system he says failed to help her.
Camille Strickland-Murphy died last week at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, N.S., where she was serving a sentence for armed robbery.
Keir Strickland-Murphy says his sister lived with mental illness.
“Camille described the prison itself as a ‘living hell’ for anyone with anxiety,” he told CTV News.
The twins are from Newfoundland, and Keir says his sister chose to serve her sentence in Nova Scotia because she believed the programs for mental illness and education were better there than at home.
He says communication was limited.
“We weren't allowed to call her. She could only call us. And they didn't really have to tell us basically anything,” Keir said.
He says he did speak with his sister only hours before she took her own life.
“We talked about a lot of her friends, and the family and we talked about the future. She seemed fine. I didn't know anything out of place,” he said.
It was only after his sister’s death that the family was informed she had made several recent attempts to harm herself.
“I don't think anyone in the world could ever accept not being told about something like that, where someone you love and care about so much has tried to hurt themselves, and you can't help them because you don't know,” he said.
Now, Keir says he wants something done to ensure no one else dies the way his sister did.
“I don't believe the prison system as it stands is equipped to deal with people with mental illness,” he said.
His sister, he says, loved to sail and run, to create art and practice judo — and that’s how he wants her to be remembered.
“I don't want Camille to be remembered for her mistakes. I don't think anyone should be remembered for the mistakes they've made,” he said.
For his part, though, Keir is left to mourn the loss of his twin, with whom he shared a connection that’s impossible to describe.
“It's almost like losing a limb. I mean you can go on with your life, and you can adapt, but you'll always know that some part of you is gone.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell