As a researcher, Dr. Juveria Zaheer spent a large portion of her time at the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario transcribing notes by hand that were left by people who died by suicide in Toronto.
The notes, included in the files of people who died between 2003 and 2009, were a window into better understanding the experiences of those individuals, how much mental illness played a role and whether their deaths were ultimately preventable.
“The idea was that if we can read those notes and honour their stories, we can find ways of accessing people who are suffering right now and improving their treatment,” said Zaheer, a researcher with Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital.
In the notes Zaheer examined, she found that many people described feeling like a burden to family, were too emotionally exhausted to engage in mental health treatment, felt like their problems were unsolvable and ultimately fought against those thoughts alone.
“It broke my heart that those were people we couldn’t help and that their stories were over.”
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