Point of View

'Amy left a bit of her heart in everyone' before she died by suicide, mom says

Amy Danielle Paterson was born on Dec. 22, 1982 at the Women's Pavilion Hospital in Winnipeg. From the moment they placed her into my arms, little did I know that those beautiful brown eyes would help me throughout her life's journey.

Mental illness impacted her 'beautiful, fun-loving' daughter, but it didn't define her, mother recalls

Amy Paterson had 'beautiful brown eyes' that captivated her mother from the day she was born. (Supplied/Brenda Paterson)

On Saturday, Jan. 26, AMYing  For a Cure, with Female Hockey Winnipeg, will host a fundraiser for mental health at the annual All-Star Game at Winnipeg's East End Arena. Funds raised will support mental health programs in honour of Amy Paterson, who died by suicide in 2009.

Here now, is the story of Amy Paterson, through the words of her mother, Brenda Paterson.


Amy Danielle Paterson was born on Dec. 22, 1982 at the Women's Pavilion Hospital in Winnipeg.

From the moment they placed her into my arms, little did I know that those beautiful brown eyes would help me throughout her life's journey.

The relationship Amy and I shared was truly beautiful. We had a special connection, one that no one could ever begin to understand.

Full of love

Amy was my middle daughter, shy and quiet. That is, until she got to know you. Then the fun-loving Amy would appear. 

The love Amy had for her dad; the love they shared  for fishing. (They went on a fly-in fishing trip to Echo lake and that trip is still talked about today.)

The love she had with her two sisters; they had a beautiful relationship.

The love she had with her her grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and family friends. Her eyes would sparkle whenever she was in their company.

Amy truly had one of the biggest hearts; she always put others before herself. She always tried to make people feel good about themselves.

Amy was very self-disciplined. Whether it was class tests, playing her saxophone or sports, she always gave it 110 per cent.

I noticed her eyes. That sparkle wasn't there.- Brenda Paterson

But when Amy was in the fourth grade, I noticed her eyes. That sparkle wasn't there. It was then that I knew something wasn't right.

I noticed her playing with her food, taking very small bites and then would say she was full.

Her pediatrician said everything was fine and that we just needed to keep an eye on her weight.

So life went on.

In junior high, Amy played school volleyball and was an amazing setter. (She would do whatever it took to keep that ball alive!)

Amy also had a passion for baton and competed across Canada. Watching her perform her first freestyle routine with the confidence she portrayed was breathtaking.

Showed on the scale

But Amy started restricting her food intake and it was starting to show on the scale.

So we sent her to see a psychiatrist.

All he did was tell Amy that she had to start eating, that this had to stop and it wasn't a game.

Signs of depression started to show when Amy was in the eighth grade. Her class went on a two-night field trip. It was there that her peers noticed her eating disorder.

After that, she withdrew from her friends and ate even less.

The doctor assured me that she was too young to suffer from depression.- Brenda Paterson

Still, the doctor assured me that she was too young to suffer from depression, and that it had to do with her lack
of eating.

Our family moved to Aurora, Ont., when Amy was in the ninth grade.

The eating disorder followed.

She was admitted to hospital when she was 14, struggling to achieve any weight gain.

Her doctor thought drinking Boost for the calories would be best for Amy, but getting it down was a challenge. The doctor then decided she needed a feeding tube.

It was devastating for her and I have never felt so helpless as a mother.

Amy enjoyed her jobs at Tim Horton's and Shoppers Drug Mart. Customers would comment on how friendly she was. She was also able to complete Grade 12 with tutors and alternative learning programs. 

But at the age of 16, Amy was too old for the pediatric eating disorder program. 

I remember asking ... if I would ever see that sparkle in her eyes again.- Brenda Paterson

The only adult program for eating disorders had one criteria; you had to be in critical condition. At age 18, Amy was unfortunately in critical condition, at just 52 pounds.

The doctor told me they'd have to be careful re-introducing food to her, because if they didn't do it properly, she
would die. 

Hearing the word "die" and my daughter's name in the same sentence was horrific. I remember asking myself if I would ever see that sparkle in her eyes again. 

Fought for her life

For nine months, Amy fought hard to get back her life.

When she was finally discharged, she went on to earn her early childhood education through online college. She then became a nanny to her niece and nephew (which she absolutely loved).

But when she was 20, Amy was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

She was first prescribed lithium, which she responded well to.

It was hard though, because weight gain was a side effect. Amy would be prescribed new medication and if she experienced any type of weight gain, she would take herself off it.

Over the next couple of years, Amy got into a serious relationship with a truly amazing guy, while still struggling with her highs and lows.

Amy's illness took over once again. She ended up in a state of bipolar psychosis. 

Sadly, after experiencing such a devastating episode, Amy wasn't able to cope.

This is where the stigma about mental health comes into play. No matter how Amy was feeling on the inside, she never portrayed it on the outside. She never wanted to be negatively judged or made to feel different.

We as a family were continuously there, fighting for Amy when she had no fight left to give.

Sadly on June 3, 2009, Amy ended her life.

I know that Amy left a bit of her heart in everyone who was fortunate enough to know her.

I truly cannot thank my brother Ken Westman enough for starting up the AMYing for a Cure Hockey Tournament in 2011, honouring Amy and bringing awareness to mental health.

For more information on AMYing for a Cure, go to this website.

If you need help: Call the Manitoba Suicide Line at 1-877-435-7170, toll free 24 hours a day, or go to reasontolive.

On Saturday, Jan. 26, AMYing For a Cure, with Female Hockey Winnipeg, will host a fundraiser for mental health at the annual All-Star Game at Winnipeg's East End Arena. Funds raised will support mental health programs in honour of Amy Paterson, who died by suicide in 2009. 5:03

This column is part of  CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.


Other help resources:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (Phone) | 45645 (Text) | crisisservicescanada.ca (Chat)

In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (Phone), Live Chat counselling at www.kidshelpphone.ca

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre


If you're worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them about it, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. Here are some warning signs: 

Suicidal thoughts.
Substance abuse.
Purposelessness.
Anxiety.
Feeling trapped.
Hopelessness and helplessness.
Withdrawal.
Anger.
Recklessness.
Mood changes.

About the Author

Brenda Paterson

Mother/mental wellness advocate

Brenda Paterson is the mother of 3 daughters; Miranda, Amy, and Amber and wife to Brian for 40 years. Brenda’s favourite past times are reading and spending time with her grand kids; Matti, Nolan, Logan and Owen. She lives in the village of Elora, Ontario.