Weeks after son's suicide, N.S. woman vows to fight for change
A Nova Scotia woman says her son’s suicide less than two weeks ago marks the start of a “new journey” for her: a mission to fix the cracks she says her son fell through.
Laura Fowler says her 20-year-old son Jackson had long struggle with mental health issues including depression and anxiety — they run in the family, she says — but things came to a head last year.
“He was in a tub full of water with cuts on him, because he was a regular cutter,” said Fowler, who lives in Kingston, N.S.
Two months ago, Jackson told his mom he was ready to get help, so they went to the hospital.
It was a weekend.
“We must have been at least six or seven hours in the Emerg,” Fowler said.
Finally, Jackson was admitted for the night, but not long after he checked himself out.
He agreed to go see a psychologist the next day, Fowler said, and it went well from the start.
“He connected with Jack. Jack connected with him,” she adds.
But good days were followed by bad ones, and not long after things took another turn.
On June 3, Jackson went for a walk in the woods.
He didn’t come back.
His mother went looking for him, and found him.
“I literally just tried to get him down saying ‘Oh my God, no, no,’" Fowler said.
"Not a sight a mother should see."
She shared her son’s story in his obituary, discussing in frank and open terms her son’s struggles, both with his own mental illness, and with a health care system Fowler says needs to be improved.
Highlighting concerns including a lack of resources, the stigma attached to mental illness, and her belief Jackson fell through the cracks, Fowler’s obituary gained much attention — and gave Fowler new purpose.
“I want to open up the door that people need to understand depression. This is going to be my chapter,” Fowler said.
“I need people to understand that there is help out there. If they can't find that help I'm going to have a number out there where they can call me and I will find it for them.”
Fowler said she’s not interested in pointing fingers at specific services. Rather, she wants to raise awareness about the challenges faced by people living with depression.
She says she also wants to see more round-the-clock supports for those in need, and better training for staff working in mental health.
“I think a lot of them are afraid to be empathetic and so on and so forth because there are so many guidelines they have to follow,” she said.
Dr. John Campbell, head of mental health and addiction services in the Annapolis Valley, says waitlists are growing, but treatments for depression are increasingly effective.
“We are seeing an increase in individuals coming to us for service,” he said.
In Nova Scotia, there are regional crisis response service teams available during business hours, and help is available at local emergency rooms on weekends and evenings.
Services can be accessed online at www.gethelpnow.ca and through a 24-7 provincial mental health crisis hotline at 1-888-429-8167.
Dr. Campbell says improvements are happening in the health care system.
“I think the mental health and addictions strategy in this province has made great headway in early identification and early intervention and working in partnership with community organizations.”
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jacqueline Foster