A groundswell of action to combat teen suicide started with the death of Daron Richardson in 2010 and continues to gain momentum. Young people are now speaking more openly about depression than ever before — and trying to access mental health services. As health-care professionals struggle to cope with demand, an army of well-intentioned people is trying to figure out how to survive the tsunami of need
BY MOIRA FARR
Hannah Brunsdon has a bow in her hair. A happily stylish black bow with white polka dots. She is a petite girl, 16 going on 17, a student at Canterbury High School, about to address a crowd of hundreds of citizens who have gathered on a frigid February night in the auditorium of Ben Franklin Place to champion a noble idea: making Ottawa a “suicide safer” place for young people.
It isn’t Hannah’s first speaking engagement and won’t be her last. The girl has blown the lid off the once taboo subject since her own battle with mental illness began back when she was 15. Obsessive thoughts that once involved harmless things like a big crush on Damien McGinty (Ireland’s answer to Justin Bieber) shifted and she became depressed, leading her to write and produce a dark play in which a girl confronts the negative voices in her head and ends up literally dancing with death.
For Hannah’s mother, Kathy, the themes of the play were a red flag. Then the outgoing daughter with stellar grades began having unexplainable aches and pains. She wanted to sleep all the time. She had so little energy and felt such panic about her schoolwork that she was excused from writing her exams that semester.