As N.S. city grapples with youth psychological well being, dad and mom seek for options

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Warning: This story accommodates content material which may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is suggested. 

The Psychological Well being & Addictions Provincial Disaster Line might be reached at 1-888-429-8167. Extra sources are listed under.

Three years after her daughter misplaced her battle along with her psychological well being struggles, Kelly Mitchell continues to be coming to phrases along with her grief – however she finds solace in serving to different younger people who find themselves struggling.

Mitchell is the founding father of Aidaen’s Place in Yarmouth, N.S. It’s a youth wellness centre the place younger individuals can hang around, be taught life abilities, take creativity workshops and get assist after they want it.

The centre is called after Mitchell’s daughter, Aidaen, who was 14 years outdated when she died by suicide in February 2019.

“It’s been three years, and that is the primary time that I can say that I’m lastly again above floor. It’s taken quite a bit,” stated Mitchell in a latest interview.

“The youth centre has been a tremendous assist for that, as a result of I’ve seen different youth wrestle and make it via.”


Kelly Mitchell along with her daughter, Aidaen. Aidaen died by suicide in 2019.


Submitted by Kelly Mitchell

Since 2019, the centre has grown considerably – beginning out as a wellness room in one other facility earlier than shortly outgrowing the area and shifting to its personal home on Yarmouth’s Primary Avenue.

Programming consists of “huge speak” occasions – the place youth discuss their lives and get assist – in addition to historical past nights, guitar classes, positivity and self-care programming, and each day scorching meals.

The constructing is painted a shiny, vibrant purple – Aidaen’s favorite color.

Learn extra:

Extra Nova Scotians died by suicide in 2021 than ever earlier than: province

However Aidaen’s Place is only one piece of the puzzle. Mitchell is rising more and more involved concerning the “alarming” variety of suicide deaths amongst younger individuals lately within the Yarmouth space.

“We simply continue to grow and rising, and the necessity is rising, and I don’t see any finish to that,” stated Mitchell.


Click to play video: 'New report shows suicides in Nova Scotia rose in 2021'


New report exhibits suicides in Nova Scotia rose in 2021


Since 2016, at the very least seven youngsters between the ages of 12 and 14 misplaced their lives to suicide within the space, Mitchell stated – and people are simply those she is aware of of.

That’s quite a bit for a small, tight-knit neighborhood like Yarmouth, situated on the southwestern tip of Nova Scotia. The municipality has a inhabitants of round 10,000, about 7,000 of whom stay within the city itself.

Many of the teenagers who died attended the identical colleges, had the identical buddies and grew up in the identical communities, Mitchell stated.

“We’re a small city and these hits we’re taking … we don’t perceive how this has occurred,” she stated. “So it’s time we begin speaking about it.”

‘I don’t need any father or mother to should undergo this’

Mitchell remembers her daughter as an “unbelievable” particular person. She and her husband, Scott, adopted Aidaen when she was seven days outdated, and from a younger age, they “knew that there was one thing particular” about her.

“We might discover she was extraordinarily empathic, cared about others properly above herself,” Mitchell stated. “Everyone else’s well-being was a very powerful factor to her. All the time put herself final.”

Aidaen had many pursuits. She was “extremely into sports activities,” stated Mitchell, taking part in soccer and basketball, and was additionally a member of her faculty’s cheer group.


Kelly Mitchell stated they knew Aidaen was particular from a really younger age.


Submitted by Kelly Mitchell

Nevertheless, she started to wrestle along with her psychological well being in her pre-teen years and made a number of suicide makes an attempt earlier than she died in February 2019.

Earlier than her demise, Aidaen went to non-public remedy and later underwent dialectical behavioural remedy at a neighborhood hospital. Nevertheless, her therapist ended up leaving their place and Aidaen, not wanting to start out over with one other therapist, refused to see anybody after that.

“Inside two months, she was gone,” stated Mitchell.

Learn extra:

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A part of the problem, she stated, was that she didn’t have entry to Aidaen’s medical data and didn’t know the way she was responding to remedy, or what sort of issues she might do at dwelling to assist her.

“We thought she was enhancing. Sadly, that wasn’t the case,” stated Mitchell. “We weren’t actually coping with the total deck of playing cards as a result of we didn’t have all of our playing cards out on the desk.”


Aidaen along with her father, Scott Mitchell, throughout her Grade 8 commencement.


Submitted by Kelly Mitchell

Shedding her daughter was probably the most tough factor she’s ever skilled, Mitchell stated.

“That’s why I battle on daily basis for these youth,” she stated. “I don’t need any father or mother to should undergo this. And that’s why Aidaen’s place is right here.”

‘We’ve acquired to do one thing about this’

The Mitchells aren’t the one dad and mom channeling their grief into motion.

Sharon and Peter Stewart, who misplaced their 18-year-old daughter Jocelyn to suicide in 2018, are working towards a venture that would assist different younger people who find themselves struggling.

In line with the Stewarts, Jocelyn was a singular, kind-hearted particular person who hated cruelty and adored animals, particularly canine.

“She liked animals in addition to individuals,” stated Peter. “She appeared to like animals greater than she liked individuals generally.”

Learn extra:

Dad and mom ought to talk about despair, anxiousness and even suicide with youngsters: specialists

Jocelyn was very shut along with her canine, Amani, a rescue from Texas. Amani means “peace” within the Swahili language – a becoming title for a canine that introduced her much-needed consolation.

“She liked her canine. And she or he felt very safe when he was round,” Peter stated.


Jocelyn Stewart along with her beloved canine – a rescue from Texas named Amani.


Submitted by Peter Stewart

Jocelyn first began displaying indicators of despair when she was 12. She started seeing a toddler psychologist for a two-hour appointment as soon as per week, however her appointments have been in Coldbrook, a few two-and-a-half-hour drive from Yarmouth.

“She couldn’t take her canine along with her, which was onerous. So it ended up being a stretch of a seven-hour journey,” stated Sharon. “That’s a protracted option to go while you’re looking for assist.”

After her 18th birthday, Jocelyn was not eligible for these appointments as a result of she was thought of an grownup. That’s when she “fell via the cracks,” stated Peter.

Jocelyn turned 18 on Aug. 6, 2018. She died lower than three weeks later.

“We had her for 18 years, which we’re grateful for,” stated Peter. “However in fact, we’re unhappy that she’s gone.”


Jocelyn’s dad and mom keep in mind her as a kind-hearted particular person, who liked animals, particularly canine.


Submitted by Peter Stewart

Quickly after her demise, the Stewarts knew they needed to do one thing.

“The morning after, Sharon and I have been sitting on the breakfast desk, the place we weren’t actually hungry, however we have been simply form of sitting there,” stated Peter.

“We checked out one another and stated, ‘We’ve acquired to do one thing about this,’ as a result of there’s been so many younger individuals misplaced to suicide previous to Jocelyn and since.

“Each time we hear of one other one, it simply breaks our hearts.”

Learn extra:

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They stated one situation is most of the sources for psychological well being in Nova Scotia are targeted within the Halifax space, and never a lot in smaller communities like Yarmouth.

The Stewarts have since began the Jocelyn Stewart Basis, with the aim of ultimately opening a supportive dwelling atmosphere for individuals with suicidal ideation.

This picture of Jocelyn and her beloved dog, Amani, inspired the logo for the Jocelyn Stewart Foundation.


This image of Jocelyn and her beloved canine, Amani, impressed the emblem for the Jocelyn Stewart Basis.


Submitted by Peter Stewart

Peter stated their imaginative and prescient is to have a home-like atmosphere, staffed 24/7 with assist workers, with therapists and counsellors out there for programming.

He stated it’s an bold venture, however one which’s wanted – and one thing Jocelyn needed for herself throughout her brief life.

“She’d come down … from her bed room, she’d be in tears. After which she stated, ‘Simply ship me away, take me someplace the place I might be protected and received’t harm myself,’” stated Peter.

“And in order that fueled the thought of a spot the place people might go to get the assistance they want so they might really feel protected.”


Jocelyn and Amani on their method dwelling from choosing him up in Maine. After Jocelyn’s demise, her dad and mom proceed to look after her canine.


Submitted by Peter Stewart

The Stewarts have utilized for charitable standing and are ready to listen to again. Till then, funding can be onerous to come back by, they stated, although they’ve acquired some donations and sponsorships.

“No matter it takes,” stated Peter. “We’ve acquired to get this accomplished, as a result of this can be a necessity.”

Funding can also be a problem for Aidaen’s Place. Mitchell stated she’s acquired some funding via grants and sponsors, however that simply helps programming, not operational prices like wages.

Learn extra:

N.S. social staff name for systemic overhaul of the psychological well being and dependancy providers system

“I fundraise to maintain two individuals employed – not me, them – as a result of I can’t go with out them,” stated Mitchell.

“So on high of that, I’ve to work 30 to 40 hours per week (elsewhere) to make ends meet on my finish. So I’m pulling 80 hours per week and getting burned out.

“I could possibly be utilizing that point a lot extra properly for programming and sources … however I received’t be capable of do this so long as I’m sitting right here fundraising simply to make the whole lot occur.”

Mitchell is working with a program that matches organizations with personal donors, and has despatched out greater than 200 letters to date with the hopes of elevating $100,000 for wage funding by the tip of the yr.

A ‘heartbreaking public well being situation’

In line with information launched by the province, a complete of 142 individuals died by suicide in Nova Scotia in 2021. That’s the highest quantity on file in keeping with the information, which dates again to 2008.

It signifies the Western Zone of the province – which incorporates the counties of Yarmouth, Digby, Lunenburg, Shelburne, Annapolis, Queens and Kings – has an particularly excessive charge of suicide.

Whereas the Western Zone makes up about 20 per cent of Nova Scotia’s inhabitants, final yr it represented greater than 1 / 4 of the province’s suicide deaths.

Of the 142 suicide deaths throughout the province in 2021, 38 have been within the Western Zone. That area had a suicide charge of 18.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, which was the best charge of suicide out of all 4 zones in 2021.

And throughout the six-year interval between 2016 and 2021, the Western Zone had the best charge of suicide for 4 of these years. It additionally tied with the Japanese Zone for the best charge of suicide in 2017.


The suicide charge within the province’s Western Zone, represented by the inexperienced line, has been greater than different zones lately.


Nova Scotia authorities

In a press release, provincial spokesperson Peter McLaughlin stated between 2009 and 2021, the variety of suicide deaths amongst these youthful than 20 years outdated ranged between 5 and 10 annually.

He stated there was “no notable improve” in suicide deaths amongst individuals in that age group to date in 2022 in comparison with earlier years, and the speed of suicide for younger individuals in that age group within the Western Zone is just like the provincial charge within the final decade.

Resulting from privateness causes, additional details about youth suicide statistics shouldn’t be out there, he stated. There are additionally no additional particulars about geographical areas, like Yarmouth particularly.

“Nova Scotia suicide indicators are reported in a method that balances privateness with significant public well being data on a heartbreaking public well being situation,” stated McLaughlin.

‘Vital want’ for extra sources

Brenda Martin-Hurlburt, a nationally-certified peer assist specialist based mostly in Yarmouth, was the one who inspired the Mitchells and the Stewarts to start out their organizations, recognizing there was a scarcity of sources within the space for youth.

In an interview, Martin-Hurlburt stated she was working in Halifax for some time however returned again dwelling after seeing a “vital want” in her neighborhood.

On the time, the Yarmouth space was reeling from a devastating tragedy: a home hearth in Pubnico that claimed the lives of 4 younger youngsters in January 2018. Over an eight-month interval, she supported almost 150 individuals who have been affected by that tragedy.

Learn extra:

‘Devastating’ home hearth in Pubnico, N.S. leaves 4 youngsters useless

Then, in November that very same yr, tragedy struck once more when a four-year-old woman was killed in an accident on the city’s annual Christmas parade. Greater than 70 individuals got here to Martin-Hurlburt for assist afterward, she stated.

“I at all times knew our neighborhood had a necessity, and I at all times knew there was one thing extra (that was wanted), as a result of we didn’t have the helps and sources on the hospital that was essential to handle individuals locally,” she stated.

Learn extra:

N.S. city grieving lack of four-year-old killed throughout Santa Claus parade

Peer supporters are individuals with lived expertise who’re educated to supply emotional and sensible assist.

They don’t seem to be medical therapists, however can complement the psychological health-care system by providing individuals somebody to speak to, which can assist unencumber different psychological well being sources for extra critical and power circumstances.

“You don’t should be a educated psychologist or psychiatrist to sit down with any individual and pay attention,” stated Martin-Hurlburt. “And most instances, that’s what individuals want: get them via that second, till we are able to see you on a medical stage.”

Brenda Martin-Hurlburt is a peer support specialist based in the Yarmouth area.


Brenda Martin-Hurlburt is a peer assist specialist based mostly within the Yarmouth space.


Submitted by Brenda Martin-Hurlburt

In its Psychological Well being Technique, launched in 2012, the Psychological Well being Fee of Canada known as for peer assist to be acknowledged “as a vital part of psychological well being providers.”

“Peer assist for individuals dwelling with psychological well being issues and diseases can assist to cut back hospitalization and signs, supply social assist, and enhance high quality of life,” it stated.

“Regardless of its effectiveness, peer assist will get very restricted funding.”

Learn extra:

A ‘free atmosphere’: Championing peer assist packages on World Psychological Well being Day

Martin-Hurlburt agreed. Earlier than COVID-19 hit, she opened a volunteer-based disaster centre in Yarmouth the place peer assist was being supplied, however ultimately it needed to shut as a result of a scarcity of funding.

She stated she utilized for $1.5 million price in grants and funding sources, “and we by no means acquired 5 cents.” Throughout the transient time the centre was open, it was largely as a result of sponsorships from native companies.

Extra peer assist sources in Nova Scotia can be a “game-changer,” she stated, but it surely hasn’t gotten a lot consideration from the province.

“It could have been good to see our system transfer that method, but it surely didn’t,” stated Martin-Hurlburt.

‘We have to come to bat for our youth’

In a press release, Khalehla Perrault, spokesperson for the Division of Well being and Wellness and the Workplace of Addictions and Psychological Well being, stated “each demise by suicide is a tragic loss.”

“The Workplace of Addictions and Psychological Well being is dedicated to making sure entry to psychological well being providers are available to all Nova Scotians and it’s essential that we do the whole lot we are able to to assist Nova Scotians when they’re struggling,” she stated.

Perrault stated there are a variety of packages within the Western Zone for youth total well being, together with psychological well being and wellness, such because the Faculties Plus program and Adolescent Outreach Providers.

There’s extra details about the province’s work to forestall and cut back the chance of suicide on its web site, she famous.

Learn extra:

Suicidal ideas amongst Canadians considerably greater throughout COVID-19: StatCan

Perrault additionally stated that on Dec. 9, Brian Comer, Minister of the Workplace of Addictions and Psychological Well being, in addition to workplace chief Dr. Samuel Hickcox, will go to the Yarmouth and Digby space to fulfill with clinicians and native community-based organizations “to debate psychological well being and addictions points that youth face within the Yarmouth space.”

The go to will embody a gathering with Shyft Home and Aidaen’s Place, she stated.

In the meantime, each Mitchell and the Stewarts say one thing must be accomplished as quickly as doable.

“We have to come to bat for our youth. They’re struggling. The sources aren’t there,” stated Mitchell. “We are able to’t lose one other youth. That is method an excessive amount of. After the primary one was an excessive amount of.”

Anybody experiencing a psychological well being disaster is inspired to make use of the next sources:



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