The parents of a 17-year-old girl from Bedford, N.S., who ended her own life are calling for more mental health education in schools.
Alexis Fletcher died just over six months ago. Her mother, a nurse at the IWK, says they tried everything they could to help her.
“I don’t think she really understood what was happening,” says Alexis’ mother, Beverly Fletcher.
The teen’s mother says she recognized something was wrong even earlier, when Alexis was in Grade 9. She took her to her family doctor and a private psychologist.
She called 911, bringing the police and the mobile mental health crisis team to their home.
“[Alexis] said that, ‘Nobody understands. I’m tired of telling my story,’” says her mother.
The Fletchers waited four months to see a psychiatrist at the IWK. When she finally got an appointment, Alexis was diagnosed with severe depression. She died three days later.
Now her family wants to raise awareness about what to look for.
“I was looking at everything, aside from mental health,” says Alexis’ father, Jeff Fletcher.
Dr. Stan Kutcher is a renowned expert in adolescent mental health. He says it’s important to be aware of the signs of depression, and that everyone should be mental health literate.
“Learning how to obtain and maintain good mental health,” says Dr. Kutcher. “The second is understanding mental disorders, including being able to recognize them and differentiate them.”
Kutcher says rapid changes in emotion and behaviour are only concerning when they last three to four weeks, when young people become withdrawn and can’t sleep.
Alexis’ parents say she started skipping classes and using marijuana. They want people to know depression can happen to anyone.
“I think people need to recognize that it’s not necessarily life events that cause depression,” says Ashley Fletcher, Alexis’ sister. “It’s the same as cancer, just kind of comes out of nowhere. Depression should be treated the same way.”
The Fletchers have established an endowment at the IWK, hoping to raise $100,000. They have $70,000 so far. Nova Scotia high schools will be able to apply for funding to use to provide mental health education and awareness.
“We can’t bring her back,” says Jeff. “If we could just save one life, then it’s all worth it.”
Their message for other parents is to keep talking to your children.
“Continue advocating and never give up,” says Alexis’ mother.