Content warning: This article contains mention of suicide.
Teens’ mental health is a growing crisis in Canada. Already in dire straits, the Canadian healthcare system cannot support those struggling with their mental state. One tragic case is Lexi Daken, a 16-year-old from Fredericton who committed suicide in 2021. Alarmingly, Daken took her life just six short days after she went to the Dr. Edward Chalmers Hospital emergency room for suicidal ideations. After her death, many questions were raised about what could have been done to prevent her untimely death. In November of 2023, there was a coroner’s inquest into what could have been done differently, to prevent incidents like this in the future.
The coroner’s inquest began on November 6, 2023, and ended the following Wednesday. The aim of the inquiry was not to assign blame for the devastation but rather to make recommendations as to what could be done differently in the future to prevent other deaths similar to Daken’s. Chris Daken, her father, provided a heart-wrenching explanation for the inquiry. He explained that his daughter’s death was preventable and that if different actions were taken, she could be here today. Furthermore, he explained he was fighting alongside Lexi’s sister, Piper, to create changes within the healthcare system, specifically how it treats mental health so other parents do not have to lose their children.
After listening to 16 witnesses, the five jury members concluded that the following recommendations would improve the health system. Firstly, there should be an amplified effort to inform youth of mental health services available to them and these resources should be marketed toward youth. Aside from that, there should be additional resources put into place for community mental health services. As well, hospitals should work to improve communication with patients. Standardized patient discharge information sheets would help patients understand their visit, which would include medical information, like diagnosis, medications, care plan, and more. Hospital clerks should take the patient’s contact information. In addition, the “contract for safety” should be easily understood by both the patient and healthcare provider, using consistent and specific wording. Likewise, if the patient is underage, a legal guardian should be involved in the contract. Lastly, they determined that before the patient leaves the facility, there should be a follow-up appointment given by community mental health services.
In numerous interviews, family and friends of Lexi Daken provided a testament to her character and the light she was in their lives. Daken, like many other youths who commit suicide, had great plans and dreams for her future, but she did not get the chance to fulfill them. She was an accomplished athlete and a high-achieving student with aspirations to become a neurologist. Daken’s counselor, Joan Doyle, described her as “a ray of light.” Even though Lexi is no longer with her loved ones, the impact she had on them in her short life will be everlasting.
If any readers of The Argosy are struggling with suicidal thoughts, we urge you to reach out for help. You are never alone and can reach out to the Addiction and Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team at 1-866-771-7760 10 p.m.–12 p.m. and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-668-6868.