Sudbury mom creates care packages for those with mental health issues

A mom in Greater Sudbury donates care packages to mental health patients in memory of her late son, Josh.

Liz Herd donates snacks, clothes to mental health patients after her own son died by suicide in 2015

Liz Herd shows a favourite photo of her son, Josh. Herd created 'Angels with Attitude' in memory of Josh who committed suicide in 2015. (Samantha Samson/CBC)

Liz Herd stands in front of her kitchen table. It's around dinner time, but instead of food and plates, she's looking at boxes of toothbrushes, toothpaste, cookies, socks and combs.

"This is just stuff that was donated recently," she says. "There's more in the basement."

The items go into care packages Herd creates for Angels with Attitude, an initiative she started after her 24-year-old son Josh died by suicide.

Josh was a filmmaker and artist, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013. Herd says her son started using drugs as a way to cope with the illness. After several years of struggling, he ended his life on November 27, 2015.

"My husband and I were at our Christmas staff party when we got the news," Herd says.

She and Josh's father had just seen him the Monday before. "We stated how important it was for him to give up the drugs, because then his bipolar would be manageable," Says Herd. She adds Josh, who used to talk a lot, didn't talk much that night."

A woman who lost her son to suicide last year creates care packages for mental health patients in Greater Sudbury 0:39

'People need help'

Herd recalls when she used to visit Josh in the hospital before his death, she would notice how many of the other patients never had visitors.

After her son's death, Herd says she wanted to keep his memory alive. She decided to help those who were in the hospital for mental health issues. "People need help."

Herd started with donating the cookies and coffee her friends had brought to Josh's funeral. She gave them to a group which had helped her son through his addictions and mental health problems, called Assertive Community Treatment (ACT).

She says she wanted the social workers who lead the group to have something to give their clients during meetings.

That's how Angels with Attitude got its wings.

Herd says people still give her donations of coffee and cookies, but she's now able to give toiletries and extra clothes in the care packages.

In addition to the care packages, Herd says she tries to connect mental health patients with food banks and community groups.

One of the holiday care packages Herd and her group of Angels with Attitude created for mental health patients this month. The bags were filled with snacks, toiletries and socks. (Samantha Samson/CBC)

Socks in lieu of presents

After years of teaching, Herd is planning to retire in June 2017. She says she'd like to continue Angels with Attitude. She also wants to continue to work for ACT, helping people connect with resources in Sudbury.

Instead of a retirement present from the Rainbow District School Board, Herd has asked for a large donation of socks.

"Our son was always without socks or was looking for socks," Herd says.

"With the cold weather, there [are] all these people out there, they're living on such a limited budget and it's cold - a pair of nice dry, warm socks is ideal."