The moments OPP told Lori de Bruyn her son had died by suicide, she knew she had to do something to help other people dealing with depression.
So the Warwick Township woman set up the Mike Harvey Foundation and will soon open an office in Trinity Anglican Church to help find information about mental health services.
It’s something de Bruyn wishes was around when she and her son started dealing with his depression in Grade 6.
“I suffered from depression myself so I saw the signs and got on it right away,” de Bruyn says. “I tried to get him the help he needed but nothing worked.”
At the time, de Bruyn says they were relying on their family physician and the lone psychiatrist – and her son had a hard time connecting with them.
“He knew exactly what to say to slip past treatment,” she says.
de Bruyn says few people knew Mike was suffering. He worked. He was engaged with step children he adored. But his illness was weighing him down. de Bryun called often and offered suggestions to help. She even called the night he took his own life. He didn’t answer the phone, likely, she believes, because Mike knew she could talk him out of suicide.
“He had to die by suicide,” she says through tears. “He knew I wouldn’t be quiet about it. He knew if I couldn’t help him, I could help someone else.” It was a thought that went through de Bruyn’s mind as she sat with the officers who told her of Mike’s death at 32.
After his funeral, de Bruyn got to work on helping others. Originally she’d hoped to work with the Deker Bauer Foundation. When it collapsed, Warwick Township officials, including Mayor Todd Case, went to work to help find a new partner. Trinity Anglican Church stepped forward and offered the use of an old nursery. It was exactly the small space the Mike Harvey Foundation needed to start.
de Bruyn says when it opens in December, people will be able to come in and find all kinds of information about mental health services already in Lambton County. “I don’t want to reinvent the wheel… it’s just when people are in a state of mind, everything is overwhelming. We want to give them a space to calm down and direct them where to go.”
de Bruyn says the office will open Saturdays. Eventually, she would like to be able to provide video conferencing for people who want to connect with services in Sarnia but don’t have a means of transportation.
By opening the Mike Harvey Foundation, de Bruyn hopes to honour her son’s memory.
“Mike took his life. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s an illness that needs to be addressed,” she says.