Brieanne Christou’s parents remember a bright eyed, intelligent, sweet girl who used to love candy. She died at just 15 years old.
Her parents believe her suicide could have been prevented had she had more —; and better —; help.
Brieanne started having issues around food when she was seven. By 12 years old, she had a full blown eating disorder.
The family battled it together and Brieanne was in and out of the ER and the ICU after a suicide attempt.
READ MORE: Ontario family hopes devastating loss will start conversation about mental illness
In some ways her family wasn’t surprised when she didn’t get better. If she refused a single meal, a symptom of her disease, she was kicked out of the hospital program immediately.
“She has to go, she’s not participating,” her father Steve Christou remembers being told, adding the family felt doctors didn’t take Brieanne seriously.
“You’ve got a 15-year-old telling you, ‘I’m going to kill myself,’ and you give her a phone number and tell her to book herself in for treatment? ‘Call this number, leave a message, they’ll get back to you when they can.”
Brieanne was still trying to get into a residential treatment facility, even after she told her mom that there was only one ending to her story.
“She intended to sneak out of the house at night when Andrea was asleep to go up to Upper Wentworth, to the overpass and jump off the overpass,” her dad said, wiping away tears.
A day after joking with him about getting a car for her 16th birthday, she left a friend’s house alone.
“And took her own life exactly where she said she was going to,” said Christou, adding that it happened on Family Day.
Her parents are sharing their story now, fearing for the lives of other children, after discovering another girl from Brieanne’s school killed herself on May 26.
That was Brieanne’s birthday.
“I don’t even know what to say to the family but I just, I know what they’re going through, it’s just horrible,” Andrea Clifford, Brieanne’s mother, said through tears.
“There’re kids dying. Something has to be done,” added Christou.
They said there is not enough help for teens with mental health issues, wait lists are too long and parents are left on their own.
“What do you say to your kid when she telling you that’s exactly how she’s going to die, and you know she means it, and you are powerless to do anything to stop it?” Christou said.
He believes Brieanne’s cry for help wasn’t answered by the system, so now he is speaking out for other little girls like his.
“The way she said, ‘Daddy.’ There’s so much that I’ll never get to know again,” he said.