Nova Scotia

'He really took the time to listen,' grieving mom says of youth mental health expert

A couple in North Sydney, N.S., is grateful for the support of the community and from an adolescent mental health expert the province sent to Cape Breton in the wake of their daughter's suicide.

Dr. Stan Kutcher dispatched to Cape Breton in wake of death of third middle school student

Dr. Stan Kutcher is in Cape Breton to talk with families, young people, schools and health providers about what's needed to address mental-health concerns. (Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith/CBC)

A grieving couple in North Sydney, N.S., is grateful for the support of the community and from an expert in adolescent mental health the province sent to Cape Breton in the wake of their child's suicide.

Madison Wilson, 13, took her own life earlier this month. Her father, Chris Royal, said she was bullied in school and on the social media site Snapchat. Her mother, Amylynn Wilson, said she's still "trying to process" everything that's happened.

Two other middle school children in Sydney also took their own lives in the last six months.

In response, the province dispatched officials from the departments of Health and Education to the island, along with expert Dr. Stan Kutcher. They arrived on Monday to investigate and will make recommendations to the government about how to improve mental-health supports for youth on Cape Breton.

'He really took the time to listen'

Kutcher attended a public meeting last night in North Sydney and met with teachers and several parents, including Wilson and Royal.

"He really took the time to listen," said Wilson. "He let us talk and explain some things and it was really nice to have someone just say, 'Here, talk.'"

Madison Wilson's parents say she took her own life after being repeatedly bullied. (Amylynn Wilson)

Kutcher said it was a privilege to meet with parents.

"They have shared their stories. They have helped us understand what they have been living through and they have come up with a number of ideas and suggestions for us," he said.

Kutcher said he wouldn't reveal what those suggestions were as it was premature and he thought more ideas would come out of the coming meetings.

'It's really hard for a kid'

Kutcher said children often need help to balance their need for social interaction with the negativity of social media.

"There is an off button. It's easy for me or for you to say, 'Push the off button.' It's easy. It's really hard for the kid," he said.

"The dilemma that we get into with the social media is one of the developmental components of adolescence is to learn how to navigate the complexities of the social world ... and it is very complex. The other component of that is the desire to develop strong and intense peer relationships."

Amylynn Wilson says her daughter Madison was cyberbullied and taunted by other students at her school in Sydney Mines. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

A second public meeting will be held Tuesday night at the Grand Lake Fire Hall in Sydney.

Wilson and Royal have also invited people to attend a balloon release in Sydney Mines tonight to remember their daughter and to send positive messages out to other children in the community.

If you are in distress or considering suicide, there are places to turn for support, including your doctor or Nova Scotia's Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team at (902) 429-8167. The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention also has information about where to find help.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith was born and raised in Cape Breton. She began her career in private radio in Sydney and has been with CBC as a reporter, early morning news editor and sometimes host since 1990.

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