Vicki Leaman (R) Nicole Chin (L) and at Clara's Big Ride 2014
My name is Vicki Leaman. I lost my wonderful son Taylor on April 22, 2008. He was 18. Taylor was a very happy, smart, athletic, popular child until he turned 12. He became a different person before my eyes and after about 7 or 8 months he was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety.
My life became focused on trying to find him the right medication, therapy and school support. Every day was trying to find the balance of encouraging him to go to school or his sports or letting him cope by staying home and playing video games or watching TV.
He made suicide attempts December 2006 and April 2007.
When he died in April 2008 it was overwhelming, my worst nightmare had come true and to make things worse, my sister had passed away just 11 days before. I had lost my baby and my support system all at once.
I initially went into shock and became suicidal myself but I had wonderful friends that were there for me EVERY DAY and I have a daughter. She was what kept me going. She was in university and only had 6 months till graduation and every day I just kept thinking I couldn’t put her though losing her mother as well. Once she graduated her convocation wasn’t for another 6 months and again I thought I needed to be there for her she had worked so hard and been through so much. By then a year had passed and I got past other hurdles; going to the store, a walk, showering and brushing my teeth most days. They sound like such every day, take for granted things but they were huge accomplishments in the beginning. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without my medications, friends and therapist.
After about 18 months, I got angry. Many holes in the health care and education systems had let my son down and also had made it difficult for me to find mental health support (I was diagnosed with PTSD and still suffer from controlled symptoms today). And that’s when things changed.
I had been through the system and I knew things needed to change. I wanted to make my son’s life to make a real difference and I could do that! I am only one person and I can’t change the world but I do have friends, and they have friends, etc.
I decided my main focus would be the reduction of the mental health stigma through education. I have:
- Held parties to celebrate Taylor’s birthdays
- Raised more than $4000 for the Adolescent Psychiatric Unit at Vancouver’s Children’s Hospital via a Pub night and in lieu of flower donations
- Held an event for World Suicide Prevention Day Sept.10, 2011, with speakers from suffering from mental health Illnesses and representatives from various support agencies in our local area.
I’m currently working as a volunteer with CMHA and my community cultural center.
My life will never be the same and I still struggle with an emotional roller coaster but when I look back to the dark days and months after my son’s death I can see a big improvement. I know others are making the same type of efforts I am. Together we WILL make a difference! For every person that is educated re mental health the negative stigma is weakened. In the future, research for medications and therapies will make wonderful changes and mental health illnesses will receive the same support and understanding as cancer and AIDS do now.