Community gathers for public meeting to discuss youth suicide

By Bruce Chessell, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Goff Hall was packed for a public meeting regarding youth suicide in the community on Thursday night. (BRUCE CHESSELL/Sentinel-Review)

Goff Hall was packed for a public meeting regarding youth suicide in the community on Thursday night. (BRUCE CHESSELL/Sentinel-Review)

So far in 2016 there have been four youth suicides locally - more than the combined total of the past five years.

Those statistics were made public by Woodstock Police Chief William Renton, who appeared as part of a panel of experts at a public meeting Thursday evening to address the issue of youth suicide in Woodstock and the surrounding area.

During the meeting, Lorrie Bailey stood in front of the packed room at Goff Hall to share her experience. Lorrie’s daughter, Mandy, died by suicide earlier this year, and during the final moments of the meeting, Lorrie stood to give her thoughts on where the community is headed with regard to this issue.

“This is so encouraging that the community is coming together. That we’re supporting our youth and we’re supporting each other, instead of everybody feeling alone and left out,” Lorrie said. “I think that it’s a wonderful start and I’m pleased to hear that we have all of these things in place that are going forward. That people are trying to bring hope. It’s a first step in a long road, as we move our kids from hopeless, to survival, to hopeful.”

Lorrie said it was great to see all of the local agencies working together to tackle the issue, instead of everyone approaching the problem in a their own different way.

“Having that unity, I think that’s what’s going to make a difference in our community,” she said.

Lorrie’s husband, Ron Bailey, said there is a long way to go moving forward.

“It’s a very long road,” he said. “We have a lot to learn as the individual agencies and the community as a whole, but this is a great first step on that long road to move toward helping our youth.”

During his presentation at the public meeting, Renton told the audience the police have received 17 reports of threats and attempts of youth suicide since the beginning of the year, outside of the four reported cases of suicide causing death.

“(These) range anywhere from veiled threat, where a child may say I’m going to go do that, not meaning it. To actually youth in the act of trying to commit suicide where we’ve intervened to stop the act and save the individual's life,” Renton said. “The range is very broad. It’s a big spectrum.”

Renton said police are only aware of 17 reports, but it is his understanding there are probably others reported to other agencies, adding that this is a fairly high number in his opinion.

“We’ve had the four suicides in the county this year,” he said. “Four is very high for us.”

Since the four incidents, the three school boards in Oxford County (Thames Valley District School Board, London District Catholic School Board and the French Catholic School Board) banded together to remobilize Community Action Tragic Events Response, or CATER.

CATER was started by school support leadership programs in 2014, but has been mostly silent until recently, remobilizing in March following the local youth suicides. During the summer, CATER will continue to meet to plan parent sessions for the fall about supporting child and youth mental health and wellbeing. A follow-up meeting is planned for parents and caregivers in June.

Going into the fall, CATER will disband once again and be replaced by a Youth Suicide Advisory Committee and Child and Youth Network that are currently being established.

All three superintendents of the school boards were sitting on the panel during Thursday night’s meeting, and all agreed the community is on the right track.

“Our biggest next step is that together, the three school boards will be inviting some community partners together,” said Karen Edgar, superintendent of student achievement at the Thames Valley District School Board. “Closer to the end of the school year we’re going to hold a follow-up meeting to the last (private) meeting that happened (on May 16), taking some of the information and the questions that the parents had and talk about the next step moving forward in the fall.

“But also ensuring that resources and supports are available over the summer,” she added. “Making sure that our parents and families know that if something happens in July or August, who’s there to support them, who’s there to be that wrap-around service.”

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) of Oxford, the Oxford Elgin Child and Youth Centre and the Woodstock Hospital also had representatives on the panel to share support programs that are offered in Woodstock and Oxford County as a whole.

CMHA Oxford offers walk-in counseling in Woodstock on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Tillsonburg from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., in Tavistock on Wednesday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. and in Norwich from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The Oxford Elgin Child and Youth Centre offers walk-in counseling on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., while the Woodstock General Hospital offers walk-in counseling on Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.

All addresses are listed below.

For more information on other programs offered by these three local agencies, visit their websites. CMHA Oxford: Oxford Elgin Child and Youth Woodstock General Hospital mental

Walk-in Counseling Locations

CMHA Oxford locations

Phone: 1-877-339-8342

Woodstock office

522 Peel Street


Tillsonburg office

40 Brock Street West


Ingersoll office, nurse practitioner-led clinic

19 King Street East


Tavistock Community Health

80 Maria Street


Norwich, held at Emily Stowe Public School

1 Jerdon Street


Oxford Elgin Child and Youth Centre

Phone: (519) 539-0463



912 Dundas Street


Woodstock General Hospital

Phone: (519) 421-4223


Athlone Entrance

310 Juliana Drive