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Winnipeg family shares personal tragedy to fight stigma of addictions treatment

Winnipeg family shares personal tragedy to fight stigma of addictions treatment
WATCH: The Bautista family recently lost a son to suicide. They want others to understand mental health and addiction affects everyone, and they want more treatment options for those who need help. Global's Austin Siragusa reports.

Rodell and Jennifer Bautista have gone through something they would never wish upon any other parent. Their son Gabriel struggled with drug addiction and mental health issues for much of his young life.

The family attended the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre meeting in Sturgeon Heights Tuesday and have shared their story with the hope of ending the stigma about addiction that can devastate any family.

READ MORE: Screaming matches, passionate pleas dominate Bruce Oake centre information meeting

Despite having a loving home where their children were raised to be high achievers with moral values, the Jennifer and Rodell said their son struggled.

“The fact is, addiction is a sickness that grabbed hold of Gabriel, and needed professional attention,” Rodell said.

Gabriel frequently used cocaine and methamphetamine. When he was 17 the family sought treatment for him at the Behavioural Health Foundation.

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He completed the four month treatment program. But after leaving the facility, he was drawn back to the temptations, and he relapsed. Having turned 18, Gabriel was not able to return to the in-patient care centre for young people.

“I had, at that time, done an involuntary medical assessment,” Jennifer said.

“The police pick him up and take him to the psych ward — he was in and out of there in 20 minutes.”

The family says their son’s struggles with addiction went on from that point, and eventually he died by suicide.

“He felt the despair. In his mind was a place where… he didn’t want to be anymore,” Rodell said. “No matter what we did to try to prevent that, it happened.”

“I was devastated. I can’t even tell you at that point what I felt,” Gabriel’s mom said with tears in her eyes.

READ MORE: Winnipeg real estate agent speaks out about own addiction in hopes of helping others

The family hopes more people can begin to understand that addiction and mental health issues happen to people in all walks of life.

“It’s the captain of the football team, it’s your real estate agent, it’s your best friend… and it’s our son,” Rodell Bautista said.

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