New Brunswick

Lexi Daken's sisters are leaving reminders of her on their travels through the province

Lexi Daken's sisters are painting rocks and leaving them throughout the province in an effort to keep the momentum on mental health reform.

The work is part advocacy, part therapy

One of the rocks painted for Lexi's Legacy, a campaign to raise awareness about mental health. (Submitted by Chris Daken)

Piper and Brennah Daken have started painting rocks and leaving them in public places to keep their sister's memory alive and the conversation going about mental health reform. 

"It's nice to have the community involved and to keep the message of the importance of mental health going," said 20-year-old Piper. 

"But it's also therapeutic for us because the rocks are kind of like bringing Lexi along with us on our family trips and leaving a piece of her there."

The girls and other family members have been leaving the rocks in various locations that held special significance for Lexi or the family, including ball fields and McDonalds around Fredericton. Last weekend, the family travelled to Bouctouche for the first time without Lexi and left several rocks along the waterfront. 

Lexi had just turned 16, a Grade 10 student at Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton, when she died by suicide in February. 

She had been struggling with depression and had already attempted suicide last fall. 

Lexi Daken, shown here in her player card from last season, loved softball. (Submitted by Chris Daken)

On Feb. 18, her school guidance counsellor was so concerned about her mental well-being she took Lexi to the emergency room at Fredericton's Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital. 

They waited for eight hours without receiving any mental health intervention. 

Lexi died by suicide less than a week later. 

Within a day of her death, Lexi's parents began speaking publicly about their efforts to get help for her. They vow to continue to speak out in an effort to change the system and prevent other families from going through what they went through. 

Her death, and the circumstances that preceded it, sparked widespread conversations about mental health services in New Brunswick.

On March 3, two weeks after Lexi's death, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard called the system "broken" and vowed to make changes to improve it. 

Twelve-year-old Brennah Daken painted this rock in memory of her sister. (Submitted by Chris Daken)

She asked Horizon Health Network officials for recommendations and gave them until the end of March to report back to her. That report is currently being reviewed by stakeholders, according to a Health Department spokesperson. 

Shephard also asked New Brunswick's child and youth advocate, Norm Bossé, to review services for mental health care for those in crisis.

Therapy through advocacy 

Twelve-year-old Brennah hopes the painted rocks will help keep Lexi's memory alive and keep the momentum going to effect changes to the province's mental health-care system. 

"Lexi's Legacy isn't just a trend. It's the reality … we want to keep that going to raise awareness about mental health," she said. 

Her older sister said they also hope to inspire people who may be struggling to "keep going." 

Piper wants people to know "that you matter. Your story doesn't end here. Keep fighting for change and keep fighting for your own mental health, and just create conversation and end the stigma."

Piper and Brennah Daken with a message in shells on the beach in Bouctouche last weekend. (Submitted by Chris Daken)

Piper said the idea for painting rocks occurred to her as a way to get her younger siblings involved in the Lexi's Legacy campaign. 

Brennah had picked up the hobby during the pandemic. It was something she already enjoyed and something they could do together. 

She said they started leaving rocks in public last Saturday during a family trip to Bouctouche. 

Piper said they're starting to hear from people on Lexi's Legacy Facebook page. Some have said they were reluctant to move the rocks. 

"So I don't think anybody's moved any of the rocks, but it's OK if they do," said Piper. 

Brennah said it's up to the individual who finds a rock whether they leave it, take it home or put it in a new place. 

Some of the rocks painted by Lexi's sisters in an effort to keep the conversation going about mental health reform. (Submitted by Chris Daken)

"We thought that people could take them home, and maybe they'd go somewhere, they could place a rock there," she said. "Or, if they wanted to leave it there for other people to see, they could do that."

Piper hopes people will take pictures of the rocks — or themselves with the rocks — and post them on social media with #lexislegacy.

"Also, if anybody else wants to paint any rocks for Lexi's Legacy, please feel free," said Piper. "Get your kids involved, get your family members involved, paint the rocks and hide them around your favorite places as well." 

Most of the rocks either have #lexislegacy or they include a mental health message, like "keep going," "better days r ahead," and "mental health matters." 

Piper and Brennah have been leaving painted rocks around southern New Brunswick, including in places that were special to their sister, Lexi. (Submitted by Chris Daken)

Piper said her favourite rock is a round one, painted white, with the words "You light up my life" because, she said, Lexi was the light of her life. 

Another particular favourite is one on which Brennah painted "Love yourself like cookies." And one her youngest brother painted that says, "We love you Lexi." 

Meeting anticipated

Lexi's father hopes the rocks remind people "that mental health matters."

"My hope is that people will see the rocks and remember Lexi and know why the rocks have been placed," said Chris Daken. 

He said his family will continue to advocate for improvements to the mental health-care system. 

"My hope is that other parents don't have to go through the same kind of ordeal that we are going through."

Daken said he spoke with officials from the Department of Health and is expecting to meet with them next week to discuss the reports submitted by the province's health authorities. 

If you need help:

CHIMO hotline: 1-800-667-5005  / http://www.chimohelpline.ca

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Urquhart is a CBC reporter based in Saint John. She can be reached at mia.urquhart@cbc.ca.

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