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Sackville family says lack of mental health support led to teen’s death

Greg Norman, 17, took his own life last Tuesday. His family said that they tried to reach out for help but were sometimes ignored.
Greg Norman, 17, took his own life last Tuesday. His family said that they tried to reach out for help but were sometimes ignored. Contributed

HALIFAX – The grief is still raw for Miranda Norman.

The Sackville woman tears up as she tries to talk about her 17-year-old brother Greg, who took his own life last Tuesday.

Miranda said Greg had been using drugs like ecstasy and cocaine, which had been making him suicidal.

“When I knew he was doing it, I was like, ‘let’s get help’ and that’s not what he wanted to hear,” she said.

Greg’s father Todd said the family tried to get help for him.

He said multiple calls were made to Greg’s high school as well as the RCMP, but he says the system ultimately failed his son.

“The school failed me. The RCMP failed me. All the hospitals…they let him go, and now I’ve buried my son,” Todd said.

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Todd and Miranda Norman discuss the loss of Greg. (Photo: Julia Wong/Global News)
Todd and Miranda Norman discuss the loss of Greg. (Photo: Julia Wong/Global News) Julia Wong/Global News

But the Halifax Regional School Board and the RCMP say they followed all the steps and did everything within their power to help Greg.

“The school absolutely was working with this student on a daily basis, trying to provide them with support,” said Halifax Regional School Board spokesperson Doug Hadley.

“The school itself is really feeling this loss as well.”

Halifax RCMP spokesperson Scott McRae said police had been called to Greg’s residence several times.

“Police responded to the call which we’ve had on prior occasions involving the same 17-year-old youth. We made an assessment. We ended up taking him to hospital for an assessment,” McRae said.

But Todd said the teen was released from hospital without the family’s knowledge.

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As a last resort, Miranda called the mental health mobile crisis team, a unit that is assesses, supports and treats youth, families and children in urgent need of mental health care.

Miranda said she was shocked to hear her concerns get brushed off.

“The way they put it was, ‘it was just a phase kids go through and most kids get out of it,'” she said.

“Right on their website, it tells you what the crisis centre is for — thoughts of suicide. My brother telling me he is going to hang himself, is that not enough?”

The mobile crisis team denies that it would ignore such a grave concern.

“Any call that comes to the crisis line is taken very seriously,” said Mary Pyche, the Capital Health crisis support program leader .

“Crisis is self defined. We are not going to say, ‘we don’t feel this is a crisis,'” she said.

But Pyche said there will be an internal review of the incident.

“When we hear about critical incidents, if there was any involvement of any of our services, we are going to be reviewing it.”

While the Norman family waits for those results, they want Greg’s memory to live on.

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“He was outgoing. He likes snowmobiling, four-wheeling. He just finished his hunting course,” Todd said.

Fighting back tears, Miranda said she would remember “just how much happiness he brought to everybody.”

“He had the biggest smile and biggest heart,” she said.

The family said they are not yet sure what their next step will be or whether they will file any complaints.

Resources

If you, or someone you know, is contemplating suicide, the following resources can help.

  • To recognize the signs of a suicidal person, consult suicideprevention.ca or novascotia.ca/help
  •  Reach Nova Scotia’s mental health crisis team at 1-888-429-8167. It is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The Kids Help Phone is a resource for children and can be reached toll-free at 1-800-668-6868.
  • Dial 211, 811 or visit an emergency room or doctor.