Former Broadcaster Lynn Keane had no plans to become an advocate for better understanding of mental health issues. But the events in her life over the last few years have taught her something of great value; the more we share, the more we reduce the shame.
It was April 28th, 2009 when Lynn and Bruce Keane’s family of 5 tragically became 4. Daniel, the eldest of their 3 children, left Oakville for a day at the family cottage. He’d be home in time for dinner. But the plan went awry. Daniel never came home. At age 23, Daniel took his own life: “I couldn’t comprehend that we were basically going along like every other family. And one day we are not the same family we were the day before. I’ll never believe that he necessarily was planning that day. I think it was a series of times when he thought about it. He probably had moments of suicidal ideation. And then when he was far enough away and he was alone and his thoughts started to change, we couldn’t bring him back.”
In the months following his suicide, Lynn mentally retraced Daniel’s life. Conversations, actions, looking for signs. University took him to Ottawa in 2006. The family knew he was having trouble managing his new found freedom: “We’d say to Daniel ‘come on just get your act together. Come on, get organized.’ It’s so much greater than that. But we had no tools.”
Among the revelations after his death, the family learned Daniel wasn’t enrolled in school: “He was living the life of two Daniels. And then it was totally blurred. He was just so unwell. And that is the mother’s guilt is that I couldn’t pick him up and just say ‘hon lets stop and lets figure this out’.”
Lynn believes the stigma of mental illness prevented Daniel from seeking help, or even sharing his problems with his family: “He was trying to manage this malaise himself. Because he thought he could. And I think that’s one of the things with depression and disorders of the brain is there will come a time when you can’t manage it. You can’t hide anymore. And it’ll take you down.”
She is a fierce advocate for changing our perception and conversations about mental illness: “Depression, mental illness is a disease. It’s not unlike any other chronic disease. By really saying this everywhere and following it up, I believe that people who are suffering will begin to share one on one.”
Working through her grief, Lynn began to write. Her story is compiled in the book ‘Give Sorrow Words’: “The more we share, the more we reduce the shame that’s attached to it. There was never a shame for us as a family. It was more the shame was we didn’t know how to save our son.”
Lynn Keane‘s book ‘Give Sorrow Words’ can be found in book stores next month.