Robin Eady has a way of telling you about her son Max (Maximilian Snelling), as if breathing life into him.
She calls him her “beautiful boy”. Its spectacular young man. Brilliant (physics, math, astronomy), athletic (rep team hockey), curious, handsome, kind, a wonderful friend, guardian, child and brother.
He would show you the stars in the sky, and not just with his Dobsonian telescope.
The more she tells you, the more you want to know, as if your sense of him, his colors and shades, were a flower opening in the sunlight of his words and feelings, the more he becomes dear to the opening, the harder it is you push back the darkness that you know will close around him.
But this is something that cannot be put off. So Robin moves on.
She’s the driving force behind St. Joseph Health Care’s New Suicide Prevention Guidea comprehensive and groundbreaking five-year resource for people and those around them who are struggling with suicide.
September 10 is Suicide Prevention Day and on Friday September 9, Robin joined others at St. Joseph Health Care’s “Remembrance Ceremony”. There were speeches including Robin’s, a butterfly release and promotion of the new initiative, called “A Guide for Individuals and Families Struggling with Suicide”.
Much of this grew out of Robin’s passionate audit of the flaws in the system that Max and those close to him experienced as they tried to deal with his crisis.
Said Robin, oncology nurse at Juravinski. “He was the apple of my eye.”
He excelled in math and physics, winning prizes in physics and computer science at St. Thomas More High School. He won a Hamilton Health Sciences Leaders of Tomorrow Fellowship. He played chess and guitar, had a girlfriend, a strong circle of lifelong friends, and hosted astronomy nights in the garden.
“In high school, he tutored kids who were struggling” in math and physics, which came so easily to him, Robin says.
After graduation, Max received several offers of university engineering programs, but chose physics at McGill University in Montreal, for its famous pure research approach.
During his second semester at McGill, in the winter of 2016, he began experiencing extreme anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia. It happened all of a sudden. He made it through his freshman year, and that summer Max and the family sought help but continued to run into roadblocks.
By fall, he had convinced everyone that he was ready to return to McGill. He survived until December and had train tickets back to Hamilton for Christmas. He never got on that train.
On December 23, Robin received a call from the Montreal police. A Good Samaritan had found Max on Mount Royal in Montreal lying in the snow, with a noose. He was hypothermic, but alive.
“He left an 11-page suicide note,” Robin said. “He said, ‘I’m out of time. He had not been.
“He had packed all the stuff from his apartment (in Montreal) in green garbage bags so we wouldn’t end up with it,” says Robin.
The following months, with Max now back home in Hamilton, were an ordeal of frustration, terror and heartache, as Robin and the family lobbied for Max to attend the Children’s Wellness Center program. young people, but the waiting time was interminably long. Meanwhile Max would have bad times and good times, for a while picking up the guitar and going to the gym with Robin who had taken time off from his nursing job, but mostly bad and at worst he was spending days in bed without brushing your teeth. or shower.
They tried so hard to get him into the Youth Welfare Center but to no avail – Max wanted to talk to people his age who were going through similar things. (He didn’t want to reconnect with old friends because, says Robin, he said he felt like a “failure.”) Robin called the center so often that they hung up on them.
In the spring of 2017, Max had a burst of initiative. He threw a movie night with his old friends to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2. He cleaned the weeds from the garden. Robin was encouraged.
Then at 7 a.m. on May 14, 2017, Mother’s Day, they found him dead by suicide in his bed, due to medication he had ordered without anyone knowing.
Over time, Robin got into thinking about how things could have been done better. In November 2017, she sent a letter – Max’s story – to Dr. David Higgins, then Chief of St. Joseph’s West 5th. Changes were immediately made. No one would be hooked anymore.
She was determined: “It will absolutely not happen to another family.
Lisa Jeffs, Director of the Youth Wellness Centre, worked closely with Robin on the guide.
At some point during their work, Robin became aware of the risk assessment guide that staff have access to.
Lisa says, “At one of our meetings years ago, Robin held this guide and shook it in the air and said, ‘Why didn’t I know? I still get goosebumps thinking about it.
If she had read this guide, she would have known better how quick and spontaneous a decision to commit suicide can be and that Max’s weeding of the garden and his movie night with friends was classic “saying goodbye” behavior.
Now the guide is complete and in use.
Robin calls it Max’s legacy.
Where to get help
If you are having suicidal thoughts or know someone who is, help is there. In an emergency, call 911 for assistance. Here are some additional resources:
Distress and Crisis Ontario: dcontario.org
Barrett Center: 1-844-777-3571
Native Women’s Center: 1-888-308-6559
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (5-20)
Good2Talk: 1-866-925-5454 (17-25)
Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255