The parents of an Edmonton boy who died by suicide earlier this year are speaking out about his mental health issues and their struggles to get him help.
Léo Cadrin was an artist, a poet and a part-time gymnastics coach, but he also suffered from Tourette syndrome and related mental health challenges.
“When he came home, that was his safe place to let it go,” said his mother, Caroline. “There would be rage, some violence. He would cry — a lot of anxiety.”
Involuntary tics got worse around the time he turned 13, on top of obsessive compulsive symptoms and anxiety.
High expectations on himself only added to Cadrin’s feelings of discontent, according to his father, Paul.
“He realized that it was going to be a very difficult climb for him, so I think that that was one of the biggest reasons of him taking his life,” his father said.
On April 26, the 16-year-old took the keys to the family car and drove it into a tree in Edmonton’s Holyrood neighbourhood. He died in hospital on May 14.
“I felt like I always knew this was going to happen,” his mother said. “I kind of always felt he wouldn’t live to be 19. He told me day in and day out he was going to die. I never wanted to really believe it, although we took all precautions to keep him as safe as we could.”
Cadrin and his family sought help through a range of programs and facilities under Alberta Health Services (AHS). Long wait times at moments of crisis — and a seeming reluctance to hold Cadrin for more than a few hours — were beginning to wear on the family.
“There is definitely room for improvement in everything that we do, and the response to families who are distressed and in crisis can always be better,” said Christine Mummery, the director for Children, Youth and Families — Addictions & Mental Health at AHS.
A planned project in Edmonton announced in the province’s last budget should improve access to mental health support for children and adolescents, according to AHS.
“There will be a whole, specific in-patient area, both short-term and long-term facilities for children and then another area for adolescents,” Mummery said.
The facility is also to include support for children abusing drugs, day programs and a walk-in mental health clinic open around the clock.
The project isn’t expected to be completed for five to six years.
The Cadrins hope improved access to mental health services will help others avoid Léo’s fate.