A Mental Health Morning Shines Powerful Spotlight on Suicide Prevention
Lynn Keane shares her story of finding hope and resilience through devastating loss at upcoming annual breakfast in support of Mental Health & Addictions Care at St. Joe’s
In Canada alone, 4,500 lives are lost to suicide every year. That’s more than 12 people every single day. It’s a statistic that former journalist-turned-author, athlete and mental health advocate, Lynn Keane, knows all too well. Her eldest child, Daniel, died by suicide when he was just 23.
On Wednesday, October 4, 2023, Lynn will be sharing her deeply personal experience at A Mental Health Morning, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation’s annual breakfast aimed at reducing the stigma associated with mental illness while raising funds for mental health and addictions care at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.
“The springboard for my advocacy was not having the knowledge to recognize the signs of catastrophic depression that led Daniel to take his own life,” Lynn says. “Daniel grew up with severe asthma and anaphylaxis, which put him in a position where a lot of foods could have killed him. So, from a very young age, he lived with anxiety and stress. Going away to university, lifestyle changes and not being able to focus on his studies exacerbated his depression. Over a period of three years, Daniel began slipping into a very dark place. And when you don’t quite understand what that darkness looks like, it can be really hard to support someone.”
Since losing Daniel, Lynn has dedicated her life to understanding the underlying causes and contributing factors that led to Daniel’s death, using her lived experience to educate others in hopes of preventing another family’s loss.
Today, she shares Daniel’s story widely – both through her memoir Give Sorrow Words and through her public speaking engagements at events like A Mental Health Morning. Her mission is to continue open conversations about the realities of suicide, as well as to spark hope for others struggling with mental illness.
To better support people in crisis, like Daniel and Lynn, St. Joe’s recently launched A Guide for People and Families Struggling with Suicide. The guide was developed in collaboration with clinicians at the Hospital, as well as families, patients and loved ones. Among other tools, the guide offers practical tips to reduce the risks of suicide as well as instructions for developing a safety plan to help people experiencing thoughts of suicide avoid crisis.
Suicide is not about wanting to die. It’s about experiencing so much mental suffering that the scale leans towards giving up on living or exhausting all of your coping mechanisms under unbearable pain and hopelessness,” says Dr. Maiko Schneider, a psychiatrist at St. Joe’s Mood Disorders Clinic. “It’s important to remember that talking about suicide with someone who is struggling will not make them think more about suicide or attempt suicide. In fact, it’s by talking, and sharing information through open dialogue that we gain a deeper understanding of the mental anguish that can lead people to consider suicide and, ultimately, we can help find solutions to prevent more people from dying by suicide.”
Lynn’s powerful keynote address at A Mental Health Morning will touch upon how we understand, talk about and support those living with a mental illness. It will also aim to inspire survivors of suicide to find their own ways of moving forward while keeping memories of their loved ones close to their hearts.
For Lynn, an avid marathoner and triathlete, it was running that helped her come to terms with her loss, to heal, and to find peace.
“After we lost Daniel, I needed to do something normal – to put one foot in front of another,” she says. “Running allowed me to be alone and outdoors, and to cry or scream if I needed to. In leaning into my grief, I found new strengths. In the wake of great loss, I found resilience, and my hope is others facing similar losses will be able to persevere, too.”
A Mental Health Morning is brought to the community by presenting sponsor ArcelorMittal Dofasco. The 2023 St. Joseph’s Spirit of Hope Awards will also be presented at the breakfast. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.
For additional mental health information and resources, visit the Hospital’s website.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call the 24-hour Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) at 905-972-8338 or contact the service online at coasthamilton.ca. If it is an emergency, call 911.