VIDEO: A grieving mother pushes for more suicide prevention in Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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VIDEO: A grieving mother pushes for more suicide prevention in Kamloops

Kym Gallagher, left, and her partner, Bruce Kendall, at Peterson Creek Bridge in Kamloops where her 17-year-old son, Austin, took his life earlier this year. Gallagher has posted notes with positive messages on the bridge in an effort to help people who want to end their lives.
August 15, 2018 - 6:30 PM

KAMLOOPS - When Kym Gallagher woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible pain in her stomach she had never felt before, she knew something was terribly wrong.

On April 17, Gallagher's son, Austin, took his own life by jumping from Peterson Creek Bridge. A busy overpass located along the Trans-Canada Highway in Kamloops.

Austin was 17 when he died. His mother says he suffered from extreme post-traumatic stress disorder and from a young age, he was diagnosed with ADHD and neurological brain disorder.

"Austin had to be talked to and disciplined differently than other kids," Gallagher says. "Physical discipline was not advised."

It got to a point where Austin would rage violently and he was eventually put into foster care from July 2014 up until his death.

"It wasn't safe for his sister or me to have him living with us," Gallagher says, adding that he was briefly in foster care in 2010.

Despite not living in the same household, Gallagher was still close to her son. They would frequently go out on movie and dinner dates and Austin would spend weekends at his mom's house.

"Anytime he needed anything, I was there for him," she says. 

The night Austin took his life he had been very angry, his mother recalls. He had been texting a close friend and decided to go for a walk but didn't tell his foster parents where he was going.

Gallagher says she woke up in the early morning on April 17 to a text from his foster parents saying Austin was missing. They filed a missing person report with Kamloops RCMP.

"I spoke with two different officers between 5:10 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and told them I woke up to seeing a text from Austin saying that he was walking and heading to a bridge but wouldn't tell me where he was," she says.

It wasn't long after a hiker came across Austin's body under the bridge.

Accepting her son's death has been challenging, Gallagher says. Peterson Creek Park located below the bridge was a place filled with memories of her hikes with Austin.

Prior to his death, Austin was hospitalized in February when he was having thoughts of suicide.

"The mental health team (at Royal Inland Hospital) wouldn't let me join in on his meeting before being released," she says. Austin was released from the hospital two days after his admission with no diagnosis.

"Austin thought that maybe he could have been bipolar due to his constant change in moods for no reason," she says.

Since her son's death, Gallagher says even passing the bridge is emotional and the 17th day of every month is hard.

"I have to be strong for me and the rest of my kids," she says. "I just try to get through each day, I have pictures up, I have a necklace with his ashes in it that I wear all the time to keep him with me."

Gallagher says she has also been reading up on how to prevent deaths by suicides in the Kamloops community. She has started an online petition to have steel nets put in under Peterson Creek Bridge to catch people who jump. So far, she's received 850 signatures on the petition.

The mother recently put up notes with hopeful messages on the bridge railings for people contemplating suicide to read. When she arrived at the spot where her son took his life this past week, she noticed flowers that had been placed there for someone else.

The most recent statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service show males accounted for 74 per cent of suicide deaths in 2016. The Interior Health Authority was one of two in the province with the highest number of suicide deaths in 2016; the other was the Fraser Health Authority.

If you're experiencing thoughts of suicide, or know someone who is, click here or call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) for help any time of the day or night from anywhere in B.C.

This story was updated on Thursday, Aug. 16 at 9:46 a.m. to correct the headline and to remove sensitive material that could identify individuals who were not named in the article.

contact a reporter for this story, email Karen Edwards or call (250) 819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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