Monday May 01, 2017

How Lynn Keane's life changed when her son took his own life

In 2009, Lynn Keane's son Daniel took his own life at the age of 23. She is now an author and suicide educator.

In 2009, Lynn Keane's son Daniel took his own life at the age of 23. She is now an author and suicide educator. (Courtesy of Lynn Keane )

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>> Moments of Disruption is part of our series, The Disruptors

Lynn Keane's oldest child Daniel was a sensitive but happy kid. He was the one to fix the problems for the family, like the year he drew up a map for the Christmas lights so that his parents wouldn't forget where they were all supposed to go. Daniel grew up with asthma and life-threatening food allergies. 

"I lived my life as his mom trying to keep him alive, keeping the offending foods away from him. I had no understanding that I should have also been looking at his mental health," Keane says.

Keane first started to notice changes in his behaviour when he left for university. He had lost weight, he became isolated from family and friends and had difficulty focusing in class.

'I realize now that I lived in denial because that's all I wanted to see was his happiness.' - Lynn Keane

Daniel eventually stopped attending school altogether, but his family didn't know that. He seemed happy when he came home on the weekends, but became quiet and withdrawn when it was time to head back to university. 

Just before he died, Daniel called his mom and sounded excited about the upcoming summer. 

"On face value, he seemed really engaged and that's all I wanted. In fact, I realize now that I lived in denial for a long time because that's all I wanted to see was his happiness."

But when Daniel didn't show up for dinner, his parents started to get concerned. Keane knew something was wrong, but when she finally got the call, confirming the news that Daniel had taken his own life, she dropped the phone and screamed. 

"It was one of the first times in my adult life, I couldn't fix it. I couldn't make it better. And I had no control over it," Keane says.

"I just knew in that moment that I didn't have a son anymore."

In the following months of grief, Keane started writing about her son and started researching what could have been behind his death.

"What we didn't know could have potentially saved our son's life."

That research led to her turning her energy and attention to suicide prevention — she speaks to adults and young people about the warning signs, the importance of talking about mental health in families and where to get help. 

"I just felt that I had to share the information that I had found and humbly, I had become a voice for people who had lost a child to suicide." 

Listen to the full story at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Liz Hoath.