Family vows to fight mental health stigma after teen's suicide
It’s not hard for Mandy Bailey’s family to imagine the 16-year-old as one of the biggest proponents of the massive anti-suicide rally held in Woodstock.
“She would be right at the forefront, leading the charge,” said sister Melissa Bailey.
“She would want to make sure that everyone knew that someone cares, someone loves you.”
But while Mandy’s sister and her parents did attend the rally, Mandy was only there in the hearts and minds of her friends and family.
She killed herself earlier this year – one of five teenage suicides in and around Woodstock that prompted Tuesday’s rally, which aimed to draw attention to the problem.
Hundreds of students staged a mass walkout of their schools and protested at Museum Square, in the hope it would help bring mental health supports they say their community needs.
Some of them carried signs in memory of the five students who took their lives. Others brandished signs demanding action.
“I don’t like having to attend my friends’ funerals,” one student told a CTV News reporter.
The Bailey family stood with them, calling for further destigmatizing of mental health issues.
“Someone goes into a hospital with a broken arm, broken leg … no one thinks anything of it. As soon as someone says ‘I have a mental health problem I need to get help with,’ everyone starts to scatter and back away,” said father Ron Bailey.
“We can’t be doing that.”
Bailey’s parents say Mandy was a smart young woman who loved to laugh, and took to dancing like a fish to water.
She also suffered from depression, although she tended to keep that to herself.
“She said ‘My biggest lie is telling people I’m OK.’ She didn’t want to share her pain with everyone else,” said mother Lorrie Bailey.
“She wanted to keep it in – and she felt that she would be able to get through.”
Although Mandy did take action to get help for her illness, she died of suicide in February.
Mandy’s family says they’ll keep fighting on her behalf, and to ensure more people speak up about mental health issues rather than let fear keep them quiet.
“Without talking about mental health, without talking about anxieties … it won’t get any better,” said Ron Bailey.
In addition to the five suicides so far this year, Woodstock Police say 36 other young people from the area have attempted suicide or reported having suicidal thoughts.